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Adherence to tuberculosis treatment

Authors
Lee B Reichman, MD, MPH
Alfred A Lardizabal, MD
Section Editor
C Fordham von Reyn, MD
Deputy Editor
Elinor L Baron, MD, DTMH

INTRODUCTION

Tuberculosis (TB) is nearly always curable if patients are treated with effective, uninterrupted antituberculous therapy. Adherence to treatment is critical for cure of individual patients, controlling spread of infection, and minimizing the development of drug resistance [1,2].

Issues related to adherence to treatment of drug-sensitive TB in adults will be reviewed here. The clinical approach to treatment of TB is discussed in detail separately. (See "Treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis in HIV-negative patients" and "Treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis in the HIV-infected patient" and "Diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of drug-resistant tuberculosis" and "Clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and treatment of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis".)

CHALLENGES OF ADHERENCE

Incomplete adherence to treatment has been identified as the most serious problem in tuberculosis (TB) control [3] and a major obstacle to the elimination of the disease [4]. In one retrospective study including 184 patients with TB in New York City (nearly half of whom were nonadherent), the nonadherent patients took longer to convert to negative culture results (254 versus 64 days), were more likely to acquire drug resistance (relative risk 5.6), and required longer treatment regimens (560 versus 324 days) [5].

Adherence to tuberculosis treatment can be particularly challenging; the duration of treatment is long (usually six months or longer), combination therapy is required, and side effects may be unpleasant. Furthermore, patients often experience rapid improvement in symptoms, which may obfuscate the importance of continuing prolonged treatment with drugs that may be perceived as unnecessary.

Factors affecting adherence — Successful treatment among patients with TB may be influenced by several factors:

         

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Literature review current through: Feb 2015. | This topic last updated: Mar 10, 2015.
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