Study objective: To evaluate physician prescribing practices for the initial therapy for tuberculosis (TB) according to the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and American Thoracic Society (ATS).
Design: Cross-sectional study.
Setting: Statewide TB surveillance system in New Jersey, 1994 to 1995.
Patients: We studied 1,230 culture-positive TB patients who were alive at diagnosis and whose isolates were tested for isoniazid susceptibility.
Results: Almost all TB patients (98%) were reported from counties with an isoniazid-resistant proportion of 4% or more, which is the minimum level for implementation of an initial four-drug regimen recommended by CDC/ATS. Overall, 36% of the 1,230 patients were not initially treated with four or more drugs. Multivariate analyses found that non-Hispanic white patients were more likely to be treated with fewer than four drugs than were non-Hispanic black patients. Private practitioners and physicians at chest clinics were about five times more likely to prescribe fewer than four drugs initially than were physicians at the hospital where a national TB center is located.
Conclusion: A substantial proportion of physicians did not initially treat their TB patients according to the CDC/ATS recommendations. The results suggest that New Jersey physicians should be better informed about the recommendation and the high level of drug resistance in the communities they serve to assure that TB patients receive appropriate initial therapy.