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Semin Respir Infect. 1991 Dec;6(4):273-82.

Treating hard-to-treat tuberculosis patients in Massachusetts.

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Tuberculosis Control Division, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Boston 02130.


For most patients with tuberculosis (TB), treatment has never been shorter or cure more certain than with current drug regimens. However, in Massachusetts and elsewhere in the United States there is a growing minority of patients who are not easily cured with the best available outpatient regimens. Close treatment supervision through culturally appropriate outreach workers has been successful for some foreign-born TB patients in whom therapy might otherwise fail. Full supervision of outpatient therapy, sometimes with incentives, has also been used successfully to treat selected homeless patients. However, a growing number of hard-to-treat homeless patients are addicted to illicit drugs, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infected, or have major behavioral problems. These patients often do not cooperate with fully supervised therapy and acquire drug resistance as a result of erratic drug taking. They can then transmit these dangerous organisms to others, especially to other HIV-infected persons within shelters, jails, prisons, detoxification centers, clinics, and hospitals, infecting institutional workers at the same time. In Massachusetts these hard-to-treat TB patients are increasingly being legally committed to involuntary, long-term, inpatient therapy. Although long-term inpatient TB treatment is expensive, it is likely to be cost effective when it successfully breaks the chain of transmission within institutions, and achieves cures not otherwise possible. A new model of lower-cost inpatient care that incorporates psychosocial rehabilitation techniques to modify the behavior of the hardest-to-treat patients is briefly described. Ultimately, however, the reversal of the current upsurge in hard-to-treat TB cases in Massachusetts and elsewhere depends not on inpatient care but on substantial changes in the socioeconomic order that perpetuates homelessness, substance abuse, crime, and the transmission of both TB and HIV infections.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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