Extreme condition, extreme measures? Compliance, drug resistance and the control of tuberculosis

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This paper explores the issue of compliance by focusing on the control of tuberculosis. In the last ten years, patient compliance in tuberculosis control has discursively shifted from ‘direct observation’ of therapy to more patient-centred focus and support drawing on rights-based approaches in dealing with health care provision. At the same time, there has been an increased international concern with the rise of drug resistant forms of tuberculosis, and how to manage this. This paper looks at these issues and the tensions between them, by discussing the shift in discourses around the two and how they relate. Drawing on experience from work in Nepal, and its successful tuberculosis control programme, it looks at debates around this and how these two arenas have been addressed. The rise of increasingly drug resistant forms of tuberculosis has stimulated the development of new WHO and other guidelines addressing how to deal with this problem. The links between public health, ethics and legal mandate are presented, and the implications of this for controlling transmission of drug resistant disease, on the one hand, and the drive for greater patient support mechanisms on the other. Looking forwards to uncertain ethical and public health futures, these issues will be mediated by emergent WHO and international frameworks.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-214
Number of pages13
JournalAnthropology and Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2010


  • tuberculosis
  • drug resistance
  • compliance
  • patient centered approaches
  • DOTS policy
  • Nepal


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