Pharmacists are essentially the first point of contact for people with symptoms of TB disease. REACH has been engaging with pharmacists to ensure a sustainable partnership for improving access to TB care services in the community. Following intervention, pharmacists were able to identify those with TB symptoms in the early stages and refer them to appropriate diagnostic and treatment centres. In addition, they are also able to counsel and guide patients who are procuring TB drugs. By being treatment observers they are able to provide medications close to the patient’s home. Pharmacists are potential stakeholders who need to be involved in TB control programs to make the end TB goal a reality.
REACH engaged with pharmacists in Chennai with support from the Lilly MDR-TB Partnership between 2012 and 2017.
To know more, read the report on the initiative here.
A strategy was evolved in consultation with different stakeholders on how private pharmacists could be engaged in the TB control program. This strategy was named DIRECT.
REACH identified and coordinated with the various branches of the pharmacy associations in Chennai. Several rounds of discussions were held to discuss the feasibility and modality of fieldlevel implementation of the proposed activities, and their inputs were incorporated into development of the pharmacy engagement strategy.
Community meetings were conducted with the support of local pharmacists, who helped in identifying communities in their neighborhoods, focusing on the most vulnerable who lived in slums and other settlements. The aim was to raise awareness regarding the importance of TB care & control, fight stigma and rally community support for patients undergoing TB treatment.
The 'Cough with Care' was conceptualised as a community campaign to introduce the practice of cough hygiene among people in Chennai as part of the 15th year celebrations of REACH. Pharmacies were involved in this campaign and helped reach out to the community. Posters were displayed at pharmacies. Through the campaign, the pharmacists were able to connect with community members and help direct them towards proper treatment and care for TB. Medicine envelopes with illustrations on cough hygiene were also distributed.
Mr. P. Trilok Chander, Treasurer, Chemists & Druggists Assn
Sensitisation workshops were organised with the support of different zonal chemist and druggist association members in Chennai. The sessions addressed basics on TB and the role that the pharmacists could play in preventing and treating TB. The training sessions also discussed the importance and use of communication materials on TB, indicated the locations of designated microscopy centres & government facilities and how to refer people with TB symptoms. In addition, pharmacists were also trained on providing DOT for people with TB.
REACH worked closely with the State and District TB Officers and the pharmacy engagement process was developed in coordination with them. They were also appraised about the initiative periodically. Through this initiative, REACH was able to facilitate interactions between the Drug Controller and the State TB Officer in 2013. Through these meetings, a collective decision was taken to work in close coordination with each other for the purpose of TB control. REACH updated the Drug Controller every quarter on the progress of the initiative. This provided an opportunity to brief the Drug Controller on the process and discuss potential solutions to challenges that emerged.
Communication materials on TB were developed and disseminated to the pharmacists, who in turn disseminated these to their clients, people with TB and the community
REACH Staff sensitised the pharmacists on a one-to-one basis by visiting them at their pharmacies and providing the communication materials on TB that they could display. The pharmacists as well as those who managed the shops were sensitised using visual aids including flip charts.
REACH staff visited the trained pharmacists on a regular basis to identify challenges and opportunities, and to follow up on referrals and facilitate linkages for those with TB symptoms to diagnostic facilities.
To complement the training sessions for the pharmacists, REACH also sensitised students from various pharmacy colleges on their potential role in the TB response.