Drug shortage: Thalassaemic children left at the mercy of fate

Twin cities’ thalassaemia centres no longer provide medicine.

Sehrish Wasif March 05, 2013
According to hospital sources, around 1,800 patients are registered at Pims and 200 at HFH. The majority are aged between six and 13 years. PHOTO: FILE


Around 2,000 under-privileged thalassaemic children are fighting to live without a life-saving drug which is no longer available at the thalassaemia centres in the twin cities’ public hospitals due to shortage of funds.

According to the hospitals’ administration, it has become difficult for them to procure this highly expensive drug as one month’s dose of Asunra costs Rs20,000. There are two thalassaemia centres, one at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) and the other at Holy Family Hospital (HFH) Rawalpindi and both have stopped providing this medicine. It is not available at pharmacies.

According to hospital sources, around 1,800 patients are registered at Pims and 200 at HFH. The majority are aged between six and 13 years. They used to get Asunra free-of-cost, which removes iron from the blood stream of thalassaemic patients who get blood transfusions.

Talking to The Express Tribune, Dr Tazeen Anwar, who deals with haemophilic as well as thalassaemic patients at Pims, said, the hospital used to provide Asunra free-of-cost to patients who could not afford it but for the past one year it has stopped doing this because of paucity of funds. Thalassaemic children’s lives depend on Asunra, which does not permit iron to collect around their organs and brain.

The hospital administration tried to arrange this medicine through Baitul Mal but it became difficult to facilitate each and every patient, she said. “This year we’ve again started providing the medicine to some patients and hopefully the issue will be resolved soon.”

Inamullah, nine, is registered at both centres but for the past few months he has not been getting this medicine. He is the elder son of Farooq Ahmed who is a taxi driver. “First we used to worry about getting blood for my son but now it’s the medicine,” said Ahmed. “For four years my son was given this medicine and was recovering, but now look at him, his condition is worsening with each passing day.”

A scared Inamullah was getting a blood transfusion at Polyclinic Hospital. When asked what he wants to be in future he said, “I want to be a doctor so that I can get my medicines on time.”

He is studying in class two but he is unable to concentrate on his studies due to his illness.

Khalil, 11, is another patient and is the only brother of five sisters and lives in a village near Tarnol. He belongs to a very poor family and cannot even afford to come to Rawalpindi for a blood transfusion. When I consider my financial condition I feel helpless but not hopeless,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 6th, 2013.


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