Medications for Tuberculosis (TB)

There are many different medications that can be used to treat TB. The length of the treatment can depend on whether you have inactive or active TB.

Table of Contents

Do I have to take TB medicine?
How long do I need to take medicine for TB?
What medications are used to treat TB?
Who is inactive TB treatment recommended for?
Will I have to pay for TB medication?

Do I have to take TB medicine?

Active TB

  • Medicines must be taken to get better and to stop the spread of TB to others.

Inactive TB

  • Taking medicine is not mandatory, but it is usually a good idea because it can lower the risk of you getting sick with active TB in the future. Certain long term medical conditions make the chances of you getting sick with active TB much higher. This makes taking medicine to prevent active TB even more important. 

How long do I need to take medicine for TB?

Active TB

  • Treatment for active TB can take up to two years (average is 6 months). Up to four different kinds of medicines must be taken daily. You may need to be isolated and stay away from other people for a while so you do not spread TB to others.

Inactive TB

  • Your doctor may suggest that you take one or more medicines every day for up to 9 months to help prevent you from developing active TB in the future.

What medications are used to treat TB?

Depending on whether you have been diagnosed with active TB or inactive TB, you may need to take one or more of the following medications:

Isoniazid (INH
Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6
Pyrazinamide (PZA
Ethambutol (EMB
Rifampin (RMP

Who is inactive TB treatment recommended for?

Anyone with inactive TB can take TB medication to lower the chance of getting sick with active TB in the future. Talk to your doctor to see if inactive TB treatment is recommended for you.

Inactive TB treatment is especially important for…

People who have:

  • any medical condition that affects their immune system (e.g. HIV or Diabetes)
  • been recently exposed to someone with active TB

People who:

  • are immigrants, refugees or travelers from areas with lots of TB
  • work at, or are residents of, health care facilities, homeless shelters, or correctional facilities  
  • are taking medication that can weaken the immune system (e.g. corticosteroids) or are underweight (weigh less than 90% of ideal body weight)

Will I have to pay for TB medication?

No, TB medication is available for free from your doctor who will order it through Public Health.

References

Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Lung Association/Canadian Thoracic Society. Canadian Tuberculosis Standards, 7th Edition 2013

Developed by the Middlesex-London Health Unit and adapted with permission.