India gets kudos for TB testing regime

A recent study in The Lancet showed that India is outperforming other so-called high-burden countries in offering the cheapest access to the World Health Organization-approved Xpert MTB/RIF screening for TB.

The subcontinent on average charges $30 per test and provides 5,200 collection centers with 113 labs offering the test that are part of the country's "Improving Access to Affordable & Quality TB Tests" (IPAQT) initiative, according to a report in The Hindu newspaper.

Charges at labs that are not part of the IPAQT initiative can be up to double that amount and charges in other high-burden countries are also higher. Labs in Bangladesh charge $75, labs in Afghanistan charge $50, and labs in the Philippines can charge as much as $155, according to the report.

Officials told The Hindu that charges could drop further if the government cut customs duties on the Xpert machines and reagents used in the tests.

"Nothing is preventing the government from waiving off the duty," Madhukar Pai, associate professor at McGill University in Canada and one of the governing council members of IPAQT told The Hindu. He said the TB tests should receive the same consideration as other life-saving drugs and HIV kits that are already given customs-free status.

The Hindu reported that because of the lower costs, more people in India are using the test; a total of 208,550 tests have been completed since 2013.

Officials in India said last year that they would scrap some import taxes on TB drugs starting this year.

- here's the report from The Hindu