Indiana to pay for student's MDR-TB treatments

State and local agencies will pay for the treatment of a northeastern Indiana student who was recently diagnosed with a drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis.

The State of Indiana and Allen County could potentially spend $250,000 for medicine alone in the first year of treatment for the student, whose identity, gender and age remain undisclosed. The treatment consists of six different medications that will be used over two years, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The student has a form of TB that did not respond to the most powerful front-line drugs used to combat the illness, and, according to the Fort-Wayne-Allen County Board of Health, Allen County is responsible to pay for the treatment of highly infectious communicable diseases if the patient is unable to pay.

"We attempt to tap into any available insurance or resources, but with this case, neither is available," John Silcox, a board spokesman, said, the Chicago Tribune reports. "It's unfortunate because this happens to be a case where the treatment is more expensive because of the nature of the TB."

Silcox said that it remains unclear exactly what the student, who is currently in isolation and undergoing treatment, will require. Generally, patients with MDR-TB are first given a second line of drugs. If that does not work, they are given a third line. In addition, treatment may require the surgical removal of a portion of the patient's lungs.

Health officials have not disclosed how the student acquired the virulent, drug-resistant form of the illness. Earlier in the month, 150 students in the patient's school district were identified as potentially being exposed to TB through the patient. Testing continues, but no one linked with the patient has been found to have contracted active TB.

Fort Wayne Community Schools Board President Joseph Steensma said the cost to the county could become staggering, but that there is no choice but to pay them.

"We have an obligation to the public" to pay for treatment, Steensma said, according to the Chicago Tribune. "If we put up barriers to treatment, then this person might infect one, two, or 20 more."