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14 Jul 2017

Health Ministry seeks alcohol exemption in Bihar for TB tests

The liquor ban in Bihar, its positive effects notwithstanding, has taken a toll on healthcare.

Conducting tuberculosis tests in Bihar has become a laborious task due to the unavailability of alcohol.

The situation has prompted the Union Health Ministry to write to Bihar's state health department, asking for an exemption for procuring and using alcohol for TB tests.

In context

Bihar liquor ban's dire consequences for TB patients

How the liquor ban has affected TB diagnosis in Bihar

"With the alcohol ban imposed in Bihar, the laboratories are facing difficulty in procuring alcohol and this has affected the diagnosis of tuberculosis in the state," said Jagdish Prasad, the Director General of Health Services, Ministry of Health.


Why the need for alcohol?

A successful tuberculosis control programme requires swift diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Insofar as diagnosis is concerned, there is a need for absolute alcohol to conduct smear microscopy tests, a method in widespread use for TB diagnosis.

Alcohol is also required for the lamps used for making smears, as well as for monthly maintenance and surface disinfection of Cartride-based Nucleic Acid Amplification Tests (CBNAAT) plungers.

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Alcohol ban should be relaxed for laboratory use

"In view of the above and in public interest, special exemption for procuring and using alcohol and spirit for uninterrupted diagnostic services under the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP) is required," added Prasad.

Situation in Bihar

Bihar and the alcohol ban: Healthcare consequences

Bihar was declared a dry state on 5th April, 2016.

While CM Nitish Kumar hailed the move, it's implications on healthcare in Bihar is dire.

In 2016, Bihar had 64,158 cases of tuberculosis, which accounted for 33% of the total cases in government hospitals.

Despite the existence of 774 labs for TB detection, lack of alcohol is proving to be a problem.

State government requested to modify liquor ban provisions

"We urge the government of Bihar to sweep away the ban over alcohol in hospital and laboratory," urged Prasad, highlighting the importance of alcohol in TB diagnosis.

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