Why do patients with DR-TB do not complete their treatment? Findings of a qualitative study from Pakistan


One of the major reasons for unsuccessful treatment outcomes among patients with drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) is the high rate of loss to follow-up (LTFU). However, in Pakistan, no qualitative study has been conducted to explore the perceptions of LTFU patients with regard to DR-TB treatment, the problems they face and the reasons for LTFU in detail.

This was a qualitative study that involved semistructured, indepth, face-to-face interviews of 39 LTFU patients with DR-TB. All interviews were carried out in Pakistan’s national language ‘Urdu’ using an interview guide in two phases: the first phase was from December 2020 to February 2021 among patients with extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis and the second phase from July 2021 to September 2021 among patients with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis.

The inductive thematic analysis of audio-recorded interviews generated the following four key themes, which were the major reasons reported by the participants of the current study to have led to LTFU: (1) patient-related factors, such as lack of awareness about the total duration of DR-TB treatment, fatigue from previous multiple failed episodes, lack of belief in treatment efficacy and perception of DR-TB as a non-curable disease; (2) medication-related factors, such as use of injectables, high pill burden, longer duration and adverse events; (3) socioeconomic factors, such as gender discrimination, poor socioeconomic conditions, non-supportive family members, social isolation and unemployment; and (4) service provider-related factors, such as distant treatment centres, non-availability of a qualified person, lack of adequate counselling and poor attitude of healthcare professionals.

In the current study, patients’ perceptions about DR-TB treatment, socioeconomic condition, medication and service provider-related factors emerged as barriers to the successful completion of DR-TB treatment. Increasing patients’ awareness about the duration of DR-TB treatment, interacting sessions with successfully treated patients, availability of rapid drug susceptibility testing facilities at treatment centres, decentralising treatment and using the recently recommended all-oral regimen may further decrease the rate of LTFU.

Keywords: Tuberculosis, Infection Control, Patient Outcome Assessment


Abubakar, M., Ullah, M., Shaheen, M. A., & Abdullah, O. (2024). Why do patients with DR-TB do not complete their treatment? Findings of a qualitative study from Pakistan. BMJ open respiratory research, 11(1), e002186.
Geographies Pakistan

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