Maya Sarkar (name changed) was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) in 2010. She was prescribed Glivec. A widow with an 8-year-old son, Maya relied on her father’s small pension to sustain family and pay her medical bills. She could only afford Glivec’s drastically cheaper generic versions. A year and a half later, however, she stopped responding to the drug. Her doctor prescribed dasatinib.
While a generic version of the medicine, Natco’s Dasanat, cost R9,000 per month, the original drug Sprycel, manufactured by Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) cost R1,65,000 per month. But Maya couldn’t find the Natco version. Natco had been locked in a bitter patent infringement battle with BMS since 2009; in 2012, it had to stop manufacture and sale on court orders.
“There’s no substitute for the drug. And buying Sprycel is out of the question for me. I have approached a lot of organisations, but none of them have enough funds to cough up such a big amount every month,” said Maya. Her treatment has now come to a standstill. She hopes either Cancer Patients Aid Association or Cancer Sahyog will intervene on her behalf.
Outside AIIMS’ crowded radiotherapy ward, only a few patients have heard of the SC judgment on Glivec. But most know what it is like to scrounge for money to fund treatment and medicines.