Background: There is little published information on the costs of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) for patients and their families in low- or middle-income countries.
Methods: Between February and July 2007, patients with microbiologically confirmed active TB who had received 2 months of treatment completed an interviewer-administered questionnaire on direct out-of-pocket expenditures and indirect costs from lost wages. Clinical data were abstracted from their medical records.
Results: Among 104 non-MDR-TB patients, total TB-related patient costs averaged US$960 per patient, compared to an average total cost of US$6880 for 14 participating MDR-TB patients. This represents respectively 31% and 223% of the average Ecuadorian annual income. The high costs associated with MDR-TB were mainly due to the long duration of illness, which averaged 22 months up to the time of the interview. This resulted in very long periods of unemployment. Most patients experienced a significant drop in income, particularly the MDR-TB patients, all of whom were earning less than US$100/month at the time of the interview.
Conclusion: Direct and indirect costs borne by patients with active TB and their families are very high in Ecuador, and are highest for patients with MDR-TB. These costs are important barriers to treatment completion.