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Tuberculosis Treatment in the Philippines: What You Need to Know

Tuberculosis Treatment in the Philippines: What You Need to Know

Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. In the Philippines, it’s most known to affect the lungs (pulmonary TB), but the bacteria can also infect the other organs of the body (extra-pulmonary TB). In case you or someone close to you developed pulmonary TB, here’s what you need to know about tuberculosis treatment in the Philippines.

Tuberculosis: All You Need To Know

Active TB Infection vs Latent TB Infection

Did you know that you can get TB infection without exhibiting any symptoms? This is called latent TB infection and it happens when you breathe in the Mycobacterium tuberculosis, but your body is able to fight the bacteria and stop them from thriving.

During a latent TB infection, either of these two things could happen:

  • The bacteria is detected through routine check-ups and the doctor prescribes you with medications to kill the germs and prevent the development of TB disease in the future.
  • The bacteria remain in the body, dormant, but alive. You wouldn’t feel sick and you are not contagious, meaning you cannot spread the bacteria to other people.

tuberculosis treatment in the Philippines

However, when your body becomes unable to fight off the latent infection, it can turn into an active TB infection. When that happens you would exhibit symptoms, like cough, fever, and weight loss. Moreover, you could spread the bacteria to other people.

Having an active TB infection means you need to choose among the available tuberculosis treatment in the Philippines.


Please note that the time before a TB infection develops into an active disease varies.

It could happen immediately after the infection, before the body has the chance to fend off the bacteria. This is common among vulnerable people, like babies, seniors, and those with chronic illnesses.

Likewise, it could happen in months or years after getting the bacteria.

Tuberculosis in the Philippines, An Overview

Before we move on to the discussion about the tuberculosis treatment in the Philippines, let’s first talk about TB statistics.

Currently, about 1 million Filipinos have active tuberculosis disease. Reports say that we have the 3rd highest prevalence rate in the world, next to South Africa and Lesotho. More concerning is the fact that about 70 Filipinos die every day because of TB, even though it’s a highly curable condition.

The World Health Organization (WHO) targets to end tuberculosis on the planet by 2030. But in the Philippines, the cases go up annually. This makes it all the more important to strengthen the tuberculosis treatment in the Philippines.

tuberculosis treatment in the Philippines

Tuberculosis Treatment in the Philippines

Our country is compliant with the WHO-prescribed TB treatment, DOTS.

DOTS stands for Directly-observed Therapy Short-course and is an effective way to “break the cycle of transmission”. Below are the components of the program:

Patients need to receive several medications

In treating an active tuberculosis disease, patients need to receive a combination of medications. The first line drugs are rifampicin, isoniazid, pyrazinamide, and ethambutol. Fixed dose combination (FDC) is available and the one most commonly prescribed.

A person who has an active TB disease might need to take a break from work or school for at least two weeks to receive their medications. After that period, their symptoms will improve and the doctor may give clearance after the assessment.

However, to completely clear the tuberculosis disease and infection, they need to complete the short-course treatment for 6 months.

A healthcare worker will observe when the patient takes their medicines

The highlight of TB DOTS in the Philippines is this: Someone has to observe the patient when they take their medications.

The reason why the program is “directly-observed” is because a healthcare worker needs to witness that the patient has indeed taken the drugs. Being directly-observed by a healthcare worker has several advantages, namely:

  • It will help the patient remember to take their medications and complete their treatment. Completing the treatment is important because not being able to do so can result in drug resistance, which is more costly and difficult to treat.
  • The healthcare worker can see if the therapy is effective.
  • The healthcare worker can notice right away if the patient develops adverse drug reactions.

TB DOTS in the Philippines is free and convenient

Finally, please note that the DOTS tuberculosis treatment in the Philippines is free. The public hospital, clinic, or health center will provide the patient with all the medications they need.

Moreover, it’s also convenient. Patients can meet the healthcare worker in the health facility, their workplace, or any convenient location.

If patients choose to be treated in a private facility, PhilHealth pays PHP 4,000 for the entire 6-month treatment. This covers diagnostic tests, consultation, and medications during the DOTS program.

6 Common Questions about Tuberculosis, Answered

Diagnostic Tests for TB

If you suspect that you or a loved one has pulmonary TB disease, you can head straight to the nearest health facility in your area, like a health center.

  • There, the doctor will teach you how to collect 2 samples of sputum (phlegm).
  • They will then check if the Mycobacterium tuberculosis is present in the sputum.
  • The physician will also order a chest x-ray to diagnose TB and to see how severe the TB disease is in the patient’s lungs.
  • If positive, they may immediately introduce you to TB DOTS.

There are also two other tests for the latent TB infection: TB skin test, which is mostly for children, and TB blood test.

  • In the TB skin test, the doctor will inject a little amount of fluid (tuberculin) under the skin.
  • The patient must come back after 48 or 72 hours to have the injection site checked.
  • Whether you’re TB positive or negative depends on the appearance of the injection site.
  • In the TB blood test, the physician will collect a sample of your blood to see if the tuberculosis bacteria are present in the body.
  • It’s worth noting that both TB skin and blood tests cannot diagnose an active TB disease. They can only check for infection.

Hence, if a TB skin test or blood test gives a positive result, the patient will need further tests (x-ray and sputum) to see if the infection has already progressed to disease and to rule out an active TB infection.

Key Takeaways

Pulmonary tuberculosis is one of the major health concerns in our country, accounting to around 70 deaths daily. The good thing is this disease is highly curable through regular and continuous medication therapy.

The tuberculosis treatment in the Philippines, particularly the DOTS program, ensures that TB patients receive the correct medications they need to completely clear their disease and infection.

Learn more about Tuberculosis here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Tuberculosis treatment through PhilHealth's TB-DOTS Package https://www.philhealth.gov.ph/news/2012/tuberculosis_tbdots.html Accessed October 6, 2020 Is the directly observed therapy short course (DOTS) an effective strategy for tuberculosis control in a developing country? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4027301/ Accessed October 6, 2020 It’s time to end TB in the Philippines https://www.who.int/philippines/news/commentaries/detail/it-s-time-to-end-tb-in-the-philippines Accessed October 6, 2020 TB Platforms for Sustainable Detection, Care, and Treatment in the Philippines https://www.urc-chs.com/projects/tb-platforms-sustainable-detection-care-and-treatment-philippines Accessed October 6, 2020 DOTS-Plus for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis in the Philippines: global assistance urgently needed https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1472979202000720#:~:text=The%20Philippines%20is%20the%20seventh%20of%2022%20high%20burden%20countries%20for%20tuberculosis.&text=Directly%20observed%20therapy%E2%80%94short%20course,control%20program%20only%20in%201996. Accessed October 6, 2020 Testing for TB Infection https://www.cdc.gov/tb/topic/testing/tbtesttypes.htm Accessed October 6, 2020 DOH National Tuberculosis Control Program - Frequently Asked Questions http://www.ntp.doh.gov.ph/faq.php Accessed October 6, 2020
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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated Nov 25, 2020
Fact Checked by Dr. Jeannette Daquinag