Objectives: To implement and evaluate a public-private partnership to deliver the internationally recommended strategy DOTS for the control of tuberculosis (TB) in Lalitpur municipality, Nepal, where it is estimated that 50% of patients with TB are managed in the private sector.
Methods: A local working group developed a public-private partnership for control of TB, which included diagnosis by private practitioners, direct observation of treatment and tracing of patients who missed appointments by nongovernmental organizations, and provision of training and drugs by the Nepal National TB Programme (NTP). The public-private partnership was evaluated through baseline and follow-up surveys of private practitioners, private pharmacies, and private laboratories, together with records kept by the Nepal NTP.
Findings: In the first 36 months, 1328 patients with TB were registered in the public-private partnership. Treatment success rates were >90%, and <1% of patients defaulted. Case notification of sputum-positive patients in the study area increased from 54 per 100 000 to 102 per 100 000. The numbers of patients with TB started on treatment by private practitioners decreased by more than two-thirds, the number of private pharmacies that stocked anti-TB drugs by one-third, the number of pharmacies selling anti-TB drugs by almost two-thirds, and sales of anti-TB drugs in pharmacies by almost two-thirds. Private practitioners were happy to refer patients to the public-private partnership. Not all private practitioners had to be involved: many patients bypassed private practitioners and went directly to free DOTS centres.
Conclusions: A combination of the strengths of private practitioners, nongovernmental organizations, and the public sector in a public-private partnership can be used to provide a service that is liked by patients and gives high rates of treatment success and increased rates of patient notification. Similar public-private partnerships are likely to be replicable elsewhere, as inputs are not large and no special requirements exist.