U.S. experiencing TB medicine shortage

Health departments treating tuberculosis in the United States are experiencing difficulties obtaining medicines and the consequences could be similar to the lack of access in developing nations, according to a recent survey.

Erica Lessem, the assistant director of the TB/HIV Project Treatment Action Group, said that while the causes of TB drug shortages in the U.S. are different from the causes in resource poor countries, the issue can result in similar consequences, Science Speaks reports.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's weekly Morbidity and Mortality reported that consequences of drug shortages include sicker patients, increased drug resistance, increased transmission of drug-resistant TB and longer periods of infection. The report said that patients would not be the only ones suffering, because health systems could endure drug rationing, higher costs, overburdened staff and errors.

"The fewer resources we invest in TB now, the greater the problem is going to be later on," Lessem said, according to Science Speaks. "It's going to be much more expensive later on."

The National Tuberculosis Controllers Associated released a survey of health departments on Thursday. The survey found that more than 80 percent of health departments in the U.S. that treat drug-resistant TB experience difficulty obtaining the drugs needed to cure the disease, Reuters reports.

The NTCA said that possible solutions for the procurement issues include obtaining drugs from foreign manufacturers, stockpiling them and developing an expedited approval process for new TB drugs, Reuters reports.