Food incentives to improve completion of tuberculosis treatment: Randomised controlled trial in Dili, Timor-Leste

Nelson Martins, Peter Morris, Paul Kelly

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Objective: To determine the effectiveness of the provision of whole food to enhance completion of treatment for tuberculosis. Design: Parallel group randomised controlled trial. Setting: Three primary care clinics in Dili, Timor-Leste. Participants: 270 adults aged ?18 with previously untreated newly diagnosed pulmonary tuberculosis. Main outcome measures: Completion of treatment (including cure). Secondary outcomes included adherence to treatment, weight gain, and clearance of sputum smears. Outcomes were assessed remotely, blinded to allocation status. Interventions: Participants started standard tuberculosis treatment and were randomly assigned to intervention (nutritious, culturally appropriate daily meal (weeks 1-8) and food package (weeks 9-32) (n=137) or control (nutritional advice, n=133) groups. Randomisation sequence was computer generated with allocation concealment by sequentially numbered, opaque, sealed envelopes. Results: Most patients with tuberculosis were poor, malnourished men living close to the clinics; 265/270 (98%) contributed to the analysis. The intervention had no significant beneficial or harmful impact on the outcome of treatment (76% v 78% completion, P=0.7) or adherence (93% for both groups, P=0.7) but did lead to improved weight gain at the end of treatment (10.1% v 7.5% improvement, P=0.04). Itch was more common in the intervention group (21% v 9%, P<0.01). In a subgroup analysis of patients with positive results on sputum smears, there were clinically important improvements in one month sputum clearance (85% v 67%, P=0.13) and completion of treatment (78% v 68%, P=0.3). Conclusion: Provision of food did not improve outcomes with tuberculosis treatment in these patients in Timor-Leste. Further studies in different settings and measuring different outcomes are required. Trial registration: Clinical Trials NCT0019256.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-8
    Number of pages8
    JournalBritish Medical Journal
    Issue number7730
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


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