OBJECTIVE: To determine the frequency and characteristics of patients with unsuccessful tuberculosis (TB) treatment.
METHODS: Random selection of TB case registers among all treatment units in Cambodia, two provinces in China, and Viet Nam. The data of two calendar years were analyzed to assess unsuccessful outcomes and their time of occurrence.
RESULTS: Among the 33 309 TB patients, treatment was unsuccessful in respectively 10.1%, 3.0% and 9.1% of patients in Cambodia, China and Viet Nam. The risk of death was highest in Cambodia, higher among males than females, increased with age, and was more common among retreatment cases than new cases, and among patients with a high than a low sputum smear microscopy grade. Half of all deaths occurred in the first 2 months in Cambodia and within 11 weeks in China and Viet Nam. Median time to default was 3 months in Cambodia and Viet Nam, and about 2 months in China.
CONCLUSIONS: Treatment was highly successful in the three study countries, with a low proportion of death and default. As the majority of defaulting occurs at the beginning of treatment, all countries should critically review their current policy of treatment support in this period.