Medications to treat tuberculosis
If you are about to start a course of treatment for Tuberculosis (TB) you will need to continue taking the medicine for at least 6 months. Some people may need to have treatment for longer.
Is TB treatable?
TB can be cured in almost all cases by taking the medications as prescribed without interruption. Your doctor or TB case manager will help monitor your therapy.
What else should I know?
- Inform the doctor of your past medical history and about any medications you are taking.
- Take your medications as directed. Do not stop taking them, even when you feel better. Not taking your medicine exactly as prescribed by your doctor can lead to the TB bacteria becoming resistant to the medication.
- Take the medication as a single dose every day, at about the same time and for the required period as directed. Remember: missing doses of medication can lead to treatment failure.
- Some medications, such as Rifampicin, must be taken on an empty stomach as they interact with food.
- Make sure the dose of each medication you take is correct.
- Avoid alcohol during the period of your treatment.
- Mild stomach upsets may occur at the beginning of treatment but they usually get better over a few days. If they don’t get better or affect your daily activities, contact your TB case manager or doctor.
- No medication is completely free of side effects but their occurrence varies from person to person and most people do not experience any problems.
- Your doctor and TB case manager will monitor your progress during treatment to check the medication is working and to check for side effects.
- You will need to attend regular medical appointments while you are taking the medication – if you cannot attend your appointment please let your doctor or case manager know so your appointment can be rescheduled.
- Keep your medication out of reach of children and store them in a cool, dry place.
What is the treatment for TB?
Your doctor will give you anti-tuberculous medicine which usually takes 6 months to complete. The medicine must be taken as prescribed without interruption.
You can take the tablets at home. You do not usually need to go into hospital for treatment.
Some patients with TB are referred on to the Anita Clayton Centre, a special clinic which runs the WA TB Control Program. It offers services to those diagnosed with TB.
The following medications are commonly used to treat TB:
- Each small white tablet contains 100mg of Isoniazid and the adult dose is 300mg daily.
- Adverse effects are uncommon but they can sometimes cause minor symptoms such as feeling irritable, tiredness, lack of concentration, and a worsening of acne.
- Isoniazid can affect your liver. If you develop nausea (feeling sick), vomiting, stomach pain, yellow skin or eyes, or darker coloured urine you should contact your doctor or case manager immediately.
- Tingling of the fingers and toes can sometimes occur and your doctor may prescribe Vitamin B6 to prevent this. Skin itchiness and rashes are rare.
- Drug interactions may occur with the anti-convulsant medication given for epilepsy. Tell your doctor or TB case manager if you are taking any of them.
- The capsules come in two strengths, 150mg or 300mg. The colours vary with the different brands and strengths. They must be taken on an empty stomach; you should take them an hour before food or two hours after food.
- Rifampicin colours your urine, sweat, tears, semen and saliva to an orange reddish colour. This side effect is harmless, although soft contact lenses may become discoloured.
- The main side effects are stomach upsets and discomfort, nausea and loss of appetite. Vomiting and diarrhoea may occur although this is rare.
- Mild flushing, itchiness, skin and a pale rash are often brief side effects, and are not reasons to stop your TB treatment. Occasionally these symptoms may get worse and are associated with fever. When that happens, stop all medication and let your doctor or TB case manager know as soon as possible.
- Inflammation of the liver is rare unless the liver has already been damaged by other diseases or alcohol use.
- Rifampicin can reduce the effectiveness of the birth control pill. Women taking the birth control pill will need to discuss other forms of contraception with their GP or an advisor at a family planning clinic.
- Rifampicin can interact with many other medications. You should check with your doctor if any other medication you are taking might interact with this medicine. Some common medications that Rifampicin interacts with include:
- oral diabetic drugs
Tell your doctor if you are taking any of these medications.
- Each large white tablet contains 500mg of the active ingredient, pyrazinamide. Your doctor will give you your dose according to your weight. Pyrazinamide has a strong action against the Tuberculosis bacteria in the early stages of treatment.
- Common side effects include loss of appetite, nausea and flushing.
- Some people experience pain in their joints. This is usually mild and painkillers such as aspirin or paracetamol will ease the pain.
- Inflammation of the liver is not common but if you develop nausea (feeling sick), vomiting, stomach pain, yellow skin or eyes, or darker coloured urine, please contact your doctor or TB case manager.
- Skin reactions such as itchiness, rashes and photosensitivity (becoming sunburned easily) could also occur, but are uncommon.
- Tablets come in two strengths, 400mg and 100mg. Your doctor will give you your dose according to your weight.
- It is important to report any change in your eye sight particularly if you notice a change in your colour vision or you develop blurred vision. Contact your TB Case Manager or doctor as soon as you notice or even suspect any problems with your vision.
- Other rare side effects include pain in the joints or itchiness and rashes.
What are some side effects of the medications?
If side effects occur it is important to report them to your TB case manager or doctor immediately. Some of the potential side effects to be aware of when taking TB medication are:
- itchy skin
- skin rashes, bruising or yellow skin
- upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea or loss of appetite
- lack of feeling or tingling in the hands or feet
- changes in your eyesight, particularly changes in red or green colour vision
- dark coloured urine
- yellow eyes.
Cost of TB medications
All medications for tuberculosis treatment are supplied free of charge from the WA Tuberculosis Control Program.
Anita Clayton Centre (WA Tuberculosis Control Program)
This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.