From next year thalassaemic patients in the city will get expensive drugs at subsidised rates or maybe even free at municipal hospitals, thanks to efforts of various thalassaemia associations.
Iron chelators, drugs that remove excess iron from a patient’s body, will now be available much cheaper. They currently cost between Rs 2,500 to Rs 4,000 per strip.
“One of the brands of these chelation drugs will become part of the schedule list (BMC’s list of subsidised or free drugs) from 2012. The matter is already in progress with the BMC,” said Dr Mamta Manglani, head of the paediatrics department of Sion hospital.
High amount of iron is deposited in a patient’s body as a result of frequent blood transfusions. To remove this excess deposition, which can cause vital organs to dysfunction, patients have to use an average of three drugs or injections or both every day.
Organisations working with thalassaemic patients are glad that the BMC has finally taken note of their demand. Jasmine Majethia, 73, chairperson of Mumbai Thalassaemic Society, has been fighting for this for the past two decades.
Recollecting an incident in 1987, when she started her work for thalassaemic patients, she said, “A nine-year-old poor thalassaemic girl was brought in as an emergency case because of excessive iron deposits to Sion Hospital. Since the hospital does not store the medicine, I rushed to a store in Dadar to get iron chelators. By the time I returned, we had lost her to an iron overload leading to heart dysfunction,” said Majethia.
Since then Majethia has been collecting donations and buying iron chelators for thalassaemic patients who cannot afford it.
Dr Sanjay Oak, dean of KEM Hospital said, “Considering that patients with blood disorders such as thalassaemia require expensive drugs all their life, we will ensure that more provisions are made for such patients every year.”