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Free Content A controlled clinical trial of oral short-course regimens in the treatment of sputum-positive pulmonary tuberculosis

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SETTING: The Tuberculosis Research Centre, Chennai, and its unit at Madurai, South India.

OBJECTIVE: To design oral short-course regimens for the treatment of sputum-positive pulmonary tuberculosis that could be more easily implemented under field conditions.

DESIGN: A total of 1203 patients was randomly allocated to one of three regimens. I (2EHRZ7/6EH7): 8-month daily regimen of ethambutol (E), isoniazid (H), rifampicin (R) and pyrazinamide (Z) for 2 months, followed by E and H for 6 months. II (2EHRZ2/4EHR2): 6-month twice-weekly regimen with the same four drugs for 2 months, followed by EHR for 4 months. III (2HRZ2/4HR2): similar to Reg. II, but without ethambutol. In Reg. I, drugs were given completely unsupervised. Regs. II and III were either completely or partially supervised.

RESULTS: Drug-susceptible group: At the end of treatment, 3.6% of 305 patients in Reg. I, 0.4% of 263 in Reg. II and 9.3% of 257 in Reg. III had an unfavourable bacteriological response. By 24 months after start of treatment, 5% of 290 in Reg. I, 11% of 258 in Reg. II and 10% of 229 in Reg. III had a bacteriological relapse requiring treatment. Giving the twice-weekly regimens partly unsupervised did not influence the response to treatment, emergence of drug resistance or relapse rates. Isoniazid resistant group: Unfavourable response and relapse with Reg. I (94 patients) was 17% and 8%, with Reg. II (59 patients 20% and 25%, and with Reg. III (74 patients ) 62% and 15%, respectively.

CONCLUSION: A fully unsupervised ethambutol-containing regimen given daily for 8 months (Reg. I) was found to be very effective even in the presence of isoniazid-resistant bacilli. With the ethambutol-containing twice-weekly regimen, the response at the end of treatment was near 100%, but the relapse rate was high (11%). The non-ethambutol twice-weekly regimen rate was not satisfactory. All three regimens failed in the presence of bacilli resistant to rifampicin and isoniazid.

Keywords: controlled clinical trial; intermittent regimens; oral short-course chemotherapy; partial supervision; pulmonary tuberculosis

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: Indian Council of Medical Research, Chennai, India

Publication date: December 1, 1997

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  • The International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease publishes articles on all aspects of lung health, including public health-related issues such as training programmes, cost-benefit analysis, legislation, epidemiology, intervention studies and health systems research. The IJTLD is dedicated to the continuing education of physicians and health personnel and the dissemination of information on tuberculosis and lung health world-wide.

    Certain IJTLD articles are selected for translation into French, Spanish, Chinese or Russian. They are available on the Union website

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