Free Tuberculosis Diagnosis and Treatment Are Not Enough: Patient Cost Evidence from Three Continents
Setting: The National Tuberculosis Programs of Ghana, Viet Nam and the Dominican Republic.
Objective: To assess the direct and indirect costs of tuberculosis (TB) diagnosis and treatment for patients and households.
Design: Each country translated and adapted a structured questionnaire, the Tool to Estimate Patients' Costs. A random sample of new adult patients treated for at least 1 month was interviewed in all three countries.
Results: Across the countries, 27-70% of patients stopped working and experienced reduced income, 5-37% sold property and 17-47% borrowed money due to TB. Hospitalisation costs (US42-118) and additional food items formed the largest part of direct costs during treatment. Average total patient costs (US538-1268) were equivalent to approximately 1 year of individual income.
Conclusion: We observed similar patterns and challenges of TB-related costs for patients across the three countries. We advocate for global, united action for TB patients to be included under social protection schemes and for national TB programmes to improve equitable access to care.