VELLORE:The Vellore TB Control unit in association with Microsoft Research Group (Bangalore) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) launched an electronic monitoring system on Thursday to ensure that HIV-TB patients do not miss taking their medication. The ‘medication adherence’ system together with the GeneXpert machine to detect TB rapidly among HIV patients that was introduced in March will ensure HIV-TB patients are getting the best possible care in Vellore.
A first in the State of Tamil Nadu, the electronic monitoring system aims to address the problem of patients not taking medicines regularly, thereby becoming potential carriers of the disease endangering the general public.
Under this system, HIV-TB patients are given medication packed in a special envelope with dosage instruction and telephone numbers behind each of the pills. Each time a patient takes a dose, the number behind the pill is revealed and patient is instructed to give a missed call to the number, which is taken note of by the central server at the DOTS centre. Those who do not call are reminded to take medication by the DOTS staff.
District TB Control Officer Dr Rajasivanandam said that the pilot project which is essentially a low-cost electronic monitoring system, was introduced in Vellore to monitor around 120 patients suffering from both HIV and TB, receiving DOTS drugs from the government Anti Retroviral Therapy (ART) centre at the Vellore Government Medical College. Directly Observed Treatment Short course (DOTS) is a strategy recommended by the WHO that emphasises fixed-dose drug combinations (FDCs) under observation to facilitate adherence to treatment and to reduce the risk of the development of drug resistance.
Dr Delfina, technical consultant to WHO based in Vellore said that earlier the patients had to come to DOTS centres to collect medication and would take their medication at the centre. With this innovative project, they need not come to the centre regularly except perhaps to collect the pills periodically.
According to Rajasivanandam, around 5,500 TB cases are being detected in Vellore every year out of which around 40 per cent are infectious. Seventy per cent of the HIV infected persons are likely to contract TB and the electronic monitoring system will help patients live longer and improve their quality of life.
The project is being field tested in 30 ART centres across the country out of which 8 are in Tamil Nadu, Vellore being one of them, she added. Based on the feedback from the Vellore trials, it would be expanded to other districts in the State, he added.