The fight against tuberculosis should be a joint one by parliamentarians of Britain and India, visiting British MP Nick Herbert said here Monday.
"Even though TB is easily curable, over 1.5 million people die of the disease across the globe. We think parliamentarians of Britain and India must work together to curb the health menace," Herbert, a co-chair of the British Parliamentary Group on Global TB, told IANS.
Herbert is leading a five-member team to India for a firsthand look at the disease situation.
"Apart from observing the TB control program in India and how it is spending money coming from our country, we would also like to have a joint parliamentary forum with India to fight the disease," he said.
Every year, India witnesses nearly 1.8 million fresh TB cases.
The five British MPs, led by Conservative MP Herbert, will meet members of the Indian Parliamentarians' Medical Forum Tuesday to form a body to take the battle forward.
Indian MPs Shakeel Ahemad, Karan Singh Yadav, M. Jagannath, Raman Senthil, and Arvind Sharma will discuss the dramatic progress made by the Indian National TB Control Program in expanding its DOTS program and also some of the major challenges that still need to be addressed.
He said the number of TB cases in Britain is increasing and so is drug resistance.
"There is a huge risk of losing so much of human capital and both the countries need to learn from each other. We went to Kenya in 2005 and saw the magnitude of the problem.
"Let's not fight TB at the ministry level alone. Parliamentarians who influence public life must take up the issue. We hope before returning that we would have a fruitful mechanism in place with the Indians MPs," Herbert added.
He said both countries could work together to develop a new drug to curb the disease. "Since the last four decades, there has been no new drug and here we must work together."
The British MPs have so far visited a number of hospitals and TB control program centers in Delhi and would meet authorities in Bangalore, Chennai and Delhi.
"We talked to a number of doctors and patients and the experience so far is interesting," Herbert said.
The Revised National TB Control Program (RNTCP), popularly known as DOTS program, was introduced in the country in 1997 in a phased manner to achieve a cure rate of 85 percent of new sputum-positive cases and to detect at least 70 percent of such cases. The entire country was covered by March, 2006.
Till date, 6.7 million patients have received DOTS treatment, averting more than 1.22 million deaths. TB is still a major cause of deaths worldwide and 1.6 million people had succumbed to the disease in 2005, the World Health Organization (WHO) had said in Geneva last week.
The second phase of RNTCP - a World Bank project - has been approved by India for the period October 2006 to September 2011 for a total outlay of Rs.11.56 billion. This includes a credit of Rs.7.65 billion from the World Bank and a grant of Rs.1.99 billion for commodity assistance of anti-TB drugs from the Department of International Development (DFID) of Britain.