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Agony of TB patients as shortage of drugs bites

 TB drugs are very costly. [iStockphoto]

The shortage of tuberculosis drugs in Kisumu hospitals has put lives of patients at risk.

The Standard has established that the situation has forced some patients who are unable to purchase the expensive drugs sold by private chemists to travel to other countries in search of the medicine.

Patients said it has been a rough journey in the last couple of months after vital supplies ran out in government facilities.

In Nyalenda, 57-year-old Alice Juma said she is barely struggling to survive after she ran out of drugs. She was diagnosed with tuberculosis ten years ago.

"My TB drugs are very costly, and being a single mother with only a minor source of livelihood, I cannot continue to buy the drugs from the pharmacy any longer," she said.

Juma said she used to pick up drugs from Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital but was told they ran out in August.

"The last time I went to pick drugs in August, I was told there was none. I have been forced to buy from pharmacies, and they are very expensive," she said.

A caregiver also revealed that she has been struggling to find drugs for her 15-year-old daughter. She has made several trips to public facilities in Kisumu, but there are no TB drugs.

Her daughter has been forced to share drugs with another patient, which makes her frequent pharmacies.

"Other patients have also not been able to access their medication, and the situation is worrying to us," she said.

Kisumu CECM for Health Gregory Ganda admitted that the county has been experiencing shortage of drugs for a couple of months now.

He revealed that this is a countrywide crisis and hopes that the government will resolve the matter soon.

"It is our duty as healthcare givers to ensure patients in dire need of these maintained healthcare services are not lacking," said Ganda.

Stephen Shikoli, the National Coordinator Network of TB Champions Kenya, said several patients have been forced to share drugs.

Normally, patients are assigned complete packs to last six months.

"Stable patients go for refills every two weeks and check-ups during the first phase of treatment, which is two months, then once every month for the remaining four months, which is called the continuation phase," said Shikoli.

He said the packs are stored at a health facility and when the patient visits they are given two weeks of monthly dosages.

Shikoli regretted that the drugs shortage has seen some patients receive them in rations.

The Kenya Medical Supplies Agency which is in charge of the procurement, storage, and distribution of drugs on behalf of the government has already advertised a tender for TB drugs.

Kenya is on the list of the countries with a high TB burden globally and among the 30 countries that contribute to 80 per cent of the global TB burden.


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