CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga — Tuberculosis patients, who have developed resistance to anti-tuberculosis drugs or are drug-sensitive, may soon adhere to treatment using a familiar device that is easily accessible to everyone — mobile phones.

A project, spearheaded by UnitAid-adherence Support Coalition to End TB (ASCENT) and KNCV Tuberculosis (TB) Foundation, in collaboration with the provincial government of Pampanga, the Department of Health (DOH)-National TB Program (NTP) and other key stakeholders, has been started here aiming to help patients succeed in TB treatment.

“By participating in the use and evaluation of this innovation, we break new ground,’’ Governor Dennis Pineda said.

“As we ride the wave of digital technology and connectivity, we make a big leap in making a difference in the lives of TB patients and inpatient care management,’’ the governor added.

Pampanga is one of two provinces in the country that will implement the use of digital adherence technology (DAT) as an innovative disease-fighting tool. The other province is Bulacan.

DAT uses three types of devices – small pillboxes that send a message to a monitoring clinic every time the patient opens it up to take their medicine; a video application that helps patients film themselves taking their medicine, and then sends the video to the clinic; and an application that helps patients send an SMS to the clinic every time they take their dose.

Mona Lisa Morales, KNCV Philippines technical officer said they have begun training the nurses and other medical practitioners in the province, and already identified 64 health facilities that will be utilized for the project.

The facilities were divided into three groups – 16 of 64 were assigned in the intervention group (8 sleeve, 8 pillbox) and 32 in standard of care (control group).  By the project’s end in 2011, ASCENT is expected to provide evidence-based on the implementation experience in the two provinces that use DAT as a component of the country’s standard TB care leading to improved treatment adherence and health outcomes.

Apart from the Philippines, the project is also being implemented in four other countries where high TB incidence and drug resistance was reported. These are in Ethiopia, South Africa, Tanzania and Ukraine.

Tuberculosis remains the top cause of infectious diseases and deaths worldwide. Despite the availability of cure through Directly Observe Treatment (DOT), patients’ non-adherence to long treatment poses a major barrier to the overall goal of treatment TB.

For the third quarter of 2020 alone, Pampanga recorded at least 2, 739 drug-sensitive TB cases and 92 multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB.  All, however, are under treatment, according to data from the DOH3. 

In 2019, the province has recorded a case notification rate (CNR) of 438 per 100, 000 population and a Treatment Success Rate (TSR) of 93%. 

Source: Manila Bulletin (