Background: Initial default is a serious issue which can enhance the transmission of TB. We determined the magnitude of and the causative factors for initial default among sputum-positive pulmonary TB (PTB) patients.
Methods: In this prospective study, 2310 patients attending a referral hospital in Uttarakhand state, north India, with presumptive TB were investigated and 555 patients with sputum-positive PTB were followed-up for initiation of anti-TB treatment (ATT) during 2010-2012. The patients not confirmed as having started ATT were considered initial defaulters.
Results: Initial default was seen in 120 (21.6%) patients comprising 22 (18.3%) defaulters during diagnosis and 98 (81.6%) defaulters after referral for directly observed treatment, short-course (DOTS). The initial default rate was significantly higher among patients from rural areas than urban areas, illiterate patients than literate patients and smokeless tobacco-users than non-users (p<0.05 for all). The main reasons for initial default among patients referred for DOTS were limited trust in DOTS (n = 44, 44.8%), adverse effects of previous ATT (n = 41, 41.8%), dissatisfaction with health services (n = 38, 38.7%), local deaths while taking DOTS (n = 28, 28.5%), advice by others against DOTS (n = 25, 25.5%), disbelief in the diagnosis (n = 18, 18.3%) and patient death before starting treatment (n = 4, 4.0%).
Conclusion: A high initial default rate was seen among patients with PTB. There is an urgent need to promote public awareness to lower the initial default rate.
Keywords: DOTS; India; Initial default; Loss to follow-up; Pulmonary tuberculosis.