The key elements in tuberculosis (TB) control are to cure the individual patient, interrupt transmission of TB to others and prevent the tubercle bacilli from becoming drug resistant. Incomplete treatment may result in excretion of bacteria that may also acquire drug resistance and cause increased morbidity and mortality. Treatment outcome results serves as a tool to control the quality of TB treatment provided by the health care system. The aims of this study were to evaluate the treatment outcome for new cases of culture positive pulmonary TB registered in Norway during the period 1996–2002 and to identify factors associated with non-successful treatment.
This was a register-based cohort study. Treatment outcome was assessed according to sex, birthplace, age group, isoniazid (INH) susceptibility, mode of detection and treatment periods (1996–1997, 1998–1999 and 2000–2002). Logistic regression was also used to estimate the odds ratio for treatment success vs. non-success with 95% confidence interval (CI), taking the above variables into account.
Among the 655 patients included, the total treatment success rate was 83% (95% CI 80%–86%). The success rates for those born in Norway and abroad were 79% (95% CI 74%–84%) and 86% (95% CI 83%–89%) respectively. There was no difference in success rates by sex and treatment periods. Twenty-two patients (3%) defaulted treatment, 58 (9%) died and 26 (4%) transferred out. The default rate was higher among foreign-born and male patients, whereas almost all who died were born in Norway. The majority of the transferred out group left the country, but seven were expelled from the country. In the multivariate analysis, only high age and initial INH resistance remained as significant risk factors for non-successful treatment.
Although the TB treatment success rate in Norway has increased compared to previous studies and although it has reached a reasonable target for treatment outcome in low-incidence countries, the total success rate for 1996–2002 was still slightly below the WHO target of success rate of 85%. Early diagnosis of TB in elderly patients to reduce the death rate, abstaining from expulsion of patients on treatment and further measures to prevent default could improve the success rate further.