WHO’s directly observed therapy (DOT) strategy for tuberculosis (TB) treatment depends upon a well-organized healthcare system. This study sought to evaluate the effectiveness of self-administered drug intake supported by a family member versus in-clinic DOT.
This open-label, nationally-representative stratified cluster randomized controlled non-inferiority trial with two parallel equal arms involved drug-susceptible pulmonary TB patients in the continuation treatment phase. We randomly assigned outpatient-TB-centres (52 clusters) to intervention and control arms. The intervention included an educational/counseling session to enhance treatment adherence; weekly visits to outpatient-TB-centres to receive medication, and daily SMS medication reminders and phone calls to track adherence and record side effects. Controls followed clinical DOT at Outpatient-TB-centres. Both groups participated in baseline and 4-5 months follow-up surveys. The trial’s non-inferiority comparisons include: treatment success as the clinical (primary) outcome and medication adherence (self-reported), knowledge, depressive symptoms, stigma, quality of life, and social support as non-clinical (secondary) outcomes.
Per-protocol analysis showed that the intervention (n = 187) and control (n = 198) arms achieved successful treatment outcome of 92.0 and 92.9%, respectively, indicating that the treatment success in the intervention group was non-inferior to DOT. Knowledge, depression, stigma, quality of life, and social support also showed non-inferiority, demonstrating substantial improvement over time for knowledge (change in the intervention = 1.05: 95%CL (0.49, 1.60); change in the control = 1.09: 95%CL (0.56, 1.64)), depression score (change in the intervention = - 3.56: 95%CL (- 4.99, - 2.13); change in the control = - 1.88: 95% CL (- 3.26, - 0.49)) and quality of life (change in the intervention = 5.01: 95%CL (- 0.64, 10.66); change in the control = 7.29: 95%CL (1.77, 12.81)). The intervention resulted in improved treatment adherence.
This socially empowering alternative strategy might be a preferable alternative to DOT available to patients in Armenia and in other countries. Further research evaluating cost effectiveness of the intervention and generalizability of the results is warranted.
Clinicaltrials.gov: NCT02082340, March 10, 2014.