• lymphatic filariasis;
  • elimination;
  • DEC;
  • annual single dose;
  • compliance;
  • India

Summary This paper reports on DEC distribution and compliance with treatment in a large-scale annual single-dose mass treatment programme to eliminate lymphatic filariasis in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. 76.9% of households (82.5% in rural areas and 58.0% in urban areas) were aware of drug distribution for control of filariasis. DEC was given to 70% (= distribution rate) (range 0–92%) of the population and 53.5% (range 12–89%) complied with treatment. The distribution rate was more than 75% in 74% of the villages and compliance was in the range of 51–75% in 76% of the villages. About 5% of the treated population reported side-effects. Distribution and compliance were higher in rural than urban areas and similar between males and females. Qualitative data showed that some socio-economic factors, logistic and drug-related problems and people's poor knowledge and perceived benefits of treatment played a role in a proportion of the population not receiving or taking the drug. The Tamil Nadu programme showed that large-scale repeated annual DEC mass treatment is feasible and that existing health services are capable of delivering the drug to all communities. While even poor to moderate compliance rates can reduce the vector transmission of infection to some extent, improved drug distribution and compliance with treatment are necessary to consolidate the gains of earlier rounds of treatment and achieve the goal of filariasis elimination within a reasonable time frame.