The DermLep Study I: Results of Prospective Nation-Wide Survey of the Number & Profile of Leprosy Patients seen by Dermatologists in India.
Introduction: There is evidence to suggest that there is a mismatch between the number of reported cases of leprosy in India and the number of actual cases in the country. One reason could be that many patients are diagnosed and treated outside the NLEP network and dermatologists may be managing some of these patients not captured by official statistics. To estimate these missing numbers, the carried out to study the number and profile of leprosy patients seen by dermatologists and their significance.
Methodology: The survey was a questionnaire-based study to be filled in by participating dermatologists from all over India, both in private practice and in medical institutions. Participating dermatologists provided information on old and new leprosy patients seen in their clinic over a 3-month period.
Results: Total of 201 dermatologists from 20 states of India participated in the survey. 3701 leprosy patients (M: F ratio 2.1:1) were seen. Of them 46.62% (n = 1680) were new; 22.89% (n = 825) were under-treatment; and 19.65% (n = 708) were post RFT patients. Children <15 years constituted 4.29%, while elderly >60 years were 22.21%. As per WHO classification, MB were 73.36% and PB 28.46%. Of all patients 30.91% had lepra reactions, with T2R being more frequent. While 23.58% of all patients in the survey had G2D; in new patients 17.79%; and in post RFT patients 37% had G2D. Among the 1680 new cases seen, 59% were reported to NLEP by the dermatologists and 41% remained unreported mainly by the private dermatologists, among whom for 20% of the cases they mentioned "no access to register". Source of MDT was WHO-MDT in 60.09% of new cases and for rest of 39.91% it was private pharmacies where private dermatologists had no access to MDT blister packs.
Conclusion: This survey suggests that a good number of new-untreated leprosy patients, treatment defaulters and post RFT cases are managed by dermatologists in India. About 40% of the new patients managed mainly by private dermatologists are not being reported to NLEP for various reasons, and these constitute the "missing numbers" from government statistics. If extrapolated to the large of number of practicing dermatologists in India, these numbers could be very significant. The high percentage of G2D noted in patients surveyed (23.58%) and post RFT patient issues observed need special attention. There is a need to develop access for dermatologists to confidentially report leprosy patients treated at their clinics to the NLEP.