[Amendment of tuberculosis prevention law and prospect of tuberculosis control program]

Mitsuhiro Ushio
Kekkaku: [Tuberculosis] 2005, 80 (7): 541-6
Tuberculosis Control Law, which provides a legal basis for national tuberculosis control, was amended in 2004 and entered into force on April 1, 2005. As it is more than half a century since its initial enactment, the law has been drastically amended based on some of the relatively new important ideas such as up-to-date scientific evidence, recent epidemiological conditions of tuberculosis, decentralization and respect for human rights. Japan has once seen a time when considerable part of producing population were affected with tuberculosis which caused severe infliction on the whole Japanese society including economical damage. With progress in medical technology such as development of chemotherapy and improvement of sanitary conditions, there was a major decline in incidence rate and death rate during the 1960s and 1970s. However, the decrease in TB incidence began to stagnate in the 1980s, partly explained by aging of the overall society and worsening of the urban tuberculosis conditions. Since then, there has been a discussion on review of national tuberculosis control program, and the increase in the number of tuberculosis patients in 1997, which happened for the first time in 38 years, precipitated the process. In 1999, 'Tuberculosis Emergency Declaration' was announced by the Minister of Health, which led to emergency national tuberculosis survey in 2000, and based on the result came forward the Recommendation on Comprehensive Review of National Tuberculosis Plan. Main ideas and spirits of the Recommendation were taken full account of during the process of the amendment of the law and were mostly reflected on the final outcome. Five key elements include; Establishment of National Tuberculosis Fundamental Guideline and Prefectural Tuberculosis Prevention Plan, Review on TB screening, Review on BCG vaccination policy, Promotion of a Japanese version of DOTS, Review on Tuberculosis Advisory Committee 1. Establishment of National Tuberculosis Fundamental Guideline and Prefectural Tuberculosis Prevention Plan With a view to establishing a comprehensive plan in the context of local tuberculosis situation, it was deemed to be necessary for both the central government and local governments to set out a detailed and comprehensive plan that may supplement the newly amended law. Prior to the amendment of Tuberculosis Prevention Law, it was made obligatory in the amended Infectious Diseases Control Law for the central government to establish National Fundamental Guideline and for local governments to establish Prefectural Prevention Plan. 2. Review on TB Screening With a view to promoting early detection of tuberculosis, tuberculosis screening system was totally reviewed to be turned into more effective and efficacious means for the purpose. Previously, all people above 19 years of age were to be screened annually for tuberculosis with chest X-ray. By this means, however, only 1,600 tuberculosis patients were detected out of 20,000,000 people screened which means the detection rate is 0.0067%. Thorough analysis was made to identify who would benefit from regular X-ray screening in terms of detection of tuberculosis patients and was decided to be those who have certain risk factors to develop tuberculosis such as the elderly and socio-economically challenged people and those who, once develops tuberculosis, may easily infect others such as school teachers, healthcare workers and such. Also the procedure of contact trace was reviewed and in highly required cases, compulsory examination implemented by health care officers has become a choice. 3. Review on BCG vaccination policy Previously national BCG policy included BCG vaccination for young children who tested negative on tuberculin skin test before they become 4 years old. However due to low sensitivity of tuberculin skin test and resulting too many of false-positive cases, the estimated number of unnecessary chemoprophylaxis was thought to be more than justifiable. Also, as regards the timing for vaccination, it was'thought of as best to give BCG vaccination before one gets infected, which may happen even before 4 years of age. For reasons above, new national BCG policy include direct BCG vaccination for infants younger than 6 months of age. 4. Promotion of a Japanese version of DOTS DOTS (Directly Observed Treatment, Short-course) is, needless to say, a tuberculosis control policy advocated worldwide by World Health Organization (WHO) since early 1990s. Japan has a long history of supporting tuberculosis patients through various activities by health care workers such as home-visit follow-up, although it is worthwhile to note that in a newly amended law there is a reference to having patients take medicine in the law itself as direction by a doctor or a director of the public health care center. 5. Review on Tuberculosis Advisory Committee The Tuberculosis Advisory Committee is a regional commi- ttee that gives advice on issues such as treatment of tuberculosis and hospitalization order based on the law. The amendment includes review on committee members to select at least one committee member from non-medical staff from the perspective of human rights protection. We acknowledge this time's amendment of the law is a significant step forward in the history of national tuberculosis control and it is our sincere hope that this will eventually lead to great improvement of national tuberculosis condition.

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