Central Government Approves New Leprosy Treatment Regimen

  • 29 Jan 2024

The Central government has recently given the green light to a revamped treatment plan for leprosy, with the aim of curbing its transmission at the sub-national level by 2027, three years ahead of the UN Sustainable Development Goals’ deadline.

Key Points

  • New Treatment: The National Leprosy Eradication Programme is implementing a three-drug regimen for Pauci-Bacillary (PB) cases, replacing the previous two-drug regimen for six months.
  • Updated Treatment Approach: Following globally accepted scientific research, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has endorsed the new treatment regimen, aligning with the latest evidence-based practices.
  • WHO's Support: The World Health Organization (WHO) has agreed to supply the revised drug regimen starting from April 1, 2025, prompting States and Union Territories to requisition anti-leprosy drugs 12 months in advance.
  • Leprosy Overview: Leprosy, caused by Mycobacterium leprae bacteria, primarily affects the skin and peripheral nerves, leading to progressive and permanent disabilities if untreated.
  • Transmission and Cure: The bacteria are transmitted through droplets from the nose and mouth during close contact; however, leprosy is curable with multi-drug therapy (MDT).
  • Significance of the Change: The new treatment regimen is viewed as a substantial stride towards the collective goal of eradicating leprosy in India by 2027.
  • WHO's Recommended Regimen: The WHO-recommended treatment regimen comprises three drugs—dapsone, rifampicin, and clofazimine—collectively known as MDT, with a duration of six months for PB and 12 months for MB cases.
  • Funding and Administration: The WHO has been providing MDT free of cost, funded initially by the Nippon Foundation and donated via an agreement with Novartis since 2000, facilitating ease of administration.