-- HealthDay staff
THURSDAY, May 23 (HealthDay News) -- A shortage of a critical
tuberculosis drug has hampered the efforts of health departments
across the United States to contain the spread of the highly
infectious lung disease, federal officials report.
The drug, isoniazid (INH), was first used in 1951 and is one of
four drugs considered to be the core of any first-line treatment
for tuberculosis (TB). Patients must take the drugs for six to nine
months, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
However, a national survey of local health departments around
the country in January found that many health departments and
clinics were having trouble getting INH. According to the report,
published in the May 24 issue of the CDC publication,
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the shortage first
became severe in November 2012 and was attributed to manufacturing
and supply problems.
The January survey, conducted by the National Tuberculosis
Controllers Association online, was sent to 68 jurisdictions in all
50 states, including health departments in 10 large U.S.
The survey found that 79 percent of the TB programs that
responded said they were having difficulty obtaining INH, 41
percent said they would run out of the drug within a month and 15
percent no longer had any of the drug left.
To deal with the shortage, 69 percent of the TB programs said
they switched suppliers, 72 percent prioritized high-risk patients,
68 percent delayed treatment and 88 percent tried alternative
treatments. Forty-four percent said they switched to more expensive
TB drug regimens.
The CDC researchers said that while the shortage of INH is
easing, many health departments still can't get supplies of the
drug and have changed their treatment practices to deal with the
shortage. The CDC is working with local, state and international
officials, along with suppliers of INH, to alleviate the
For more on tuberculosis, go to the
U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention.
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