MANILA, September 7
, 2004  (STAR) By Sheila Crisostomo - The Department of Health (DOH) is now conducting a survey to get a clear picture of the drug-resisting tuberculosis (TB) cases in the country, an official said.

Dr. Myrna Cabotaje, head of the DOHís National Center for Disease Prevention and Control, said they want to get accurate data on multi-drug resistance (MDR) TB so they can make adjustments in anti-TB programs.

"There are concerted efforts to combat TB both locally and globally and we hope this survey will strengthen our undertakings. TB is a curable disease and all we need to do is to make sure that those afflicted get proper treatment," she said.

Cabotaje is the vice chairman of the Philippine Coalition against TB (PhilCAT) that is now intensifying anti-TB campaigns in the country.

PhilCAT recently held its three-day annual convention with the theme "TB Control: Breakthroughs, Best Practices, Forging Partnerships."

The convention showcased developments in the fight against TB and strengthened partnerships between the Philippine government and local and international non-governmental organizations.

TB is considered the sixth leading cause of death and sickness in the Philippines, which ranks eighth among 22 countries burdened by the respiratory disease.

It is estimated that 320 of every 100,000 Filipinos have TB. Many are infected but do not know it or refuse to recognize it because of the stigma the disease brings.

Cabotaje said TB patients should not allow their illness to progress into multi drug-resistant TB which is more expensive to treat.

MDR drugs usually cost about P150,000 to P200,000, while the regular Directly Observed Treatment Short (DOTS) only costs P3,000 to P8,000 in private clinics. If available, the medicines are given free in public health centers.

Prescribed by the World Health Organization (WHO), DOTS requires patients to undergo a six-month uninterrupted treatment. It involves four or five types of drugs.

Cabotaje said a TB patient could develop MDR if the treatment has been interrupted. When this happens, the patient will have to start anew when he resumes treatment.

TB experts also do not advise patients to practice "underdosing" by, for instance, cutting a tablet into two instead of taking it whole as required.

"If we donít treat our patients well, we might see them develop multi-drug resistance. We should not let this happen," she said.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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