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Costs incurred by patients with drug-susceptible pulmonary tuberculosis in semi-urban and rural settings of Western India.

  • Author(s): Rupani, Mihir P;
  • Cattamanchi, Adithya;
  • Shete, Priya B;
  • Vollmer, William M;
  • Basu, Sanjib;
  • Dave, Jigna D
  • et al.
Abstract

Background

India reports the highest number of tuberculosis (TB) cases worldwide. Poverty has a dual impact as it increases the risk of TB and exposes the poor to economic hardship when they develop TB. Our objective was to estimate the costs incurred by patients with drug-susceptible TB in Bhavnagar (western India) using an adapted World Health Organization costing tool.

Methods

We conducted a descriptive cross-sectional study of adults, notified in the public sector and being treated for drug-susceptible pulmonary TB during January-June 2019, in six urban and three rural blocks of Bhavnagar region, Gujarat state, India. The direct and indirect TB-related costs, as well as patients' coping strategies, were assessed for the overall care of TB till treatment completion. Catastrophic costs were defined as total costs > 20% of annual household income (excluding any amount received from cash transfer programs or borrowed). Median and interquartile range (IQR) was used to summarize patient costs. The median costs between any two groups were compared using the median test. The association between any two categorical variables was tested by the Pearson chi-squared test. All costs were described in US dollars (USD). During the study period, on average, one USD equalled 70 Indian Rupees.

Results

Of 458 patients included, 70% were male, 62% had no formal education, 71% lived in urban areas, and 96% completed TB treatment. The median (IQR) total costs were USD 8 (5-28), direct medical costs were USD 0 (0-0), direct non-medical costs were USD 3 (2-4) and indirect costs were USD 6 (3-13). Among direct non-medical costs, travel cost (median = USD 3, IQR: 2-4) to attend health facilities were the most prominent, whereas the indirect costs were mainly contributed by the patient's loss of wages (median = USD 3, IQR: 0-6). Four percent of patients faced catastrophic costs, 11% borrowed money to cover costs and 7% lost their employment; the median working days lost to TB was 30 (IQR: 15-45). A majority (88%) of patients received a median USD 43 (IQR: 41-43) as part of a cash transfer program for TB patients.

Conclusions

Treatment completion was high and the costs incurred by TB patients were low in this setting. However, negative financial consequences occur even in low-cost settings. The role of universal cash transfer programs in such settings requires further study.

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