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Red tape in drug procurement pushes thalassemia patients to risk

Persons with the two diseases require iron chelation tablets to ensure there is no overload of iron in the blood, which may be lethal
Last Updated : 23 October 2022, 15:28 IST

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The Karnataka government has put thousands of people with thalassemia and sickle cell disease at risk by delaying the procurement of life-saving medicines for two years.

Persons with the two diseases require iron chelation tablets to ensure there is no overload of iron in the blood, which may be lethal. Under the National Health Mission, the government procures the tablets and distributes them for free to the affected persons. Otherwise, Thalassemic patients have to spend Rs 15,000 to Rs 30,000 per month, depending on the dosage.

The Thalassaemia and Sickle Cell Society of Bangalore has been urging the government to consider the life and death situation of the members of the community. The state government has not only failed to end the shortage of the drug but has introduced a new problem.

New problem

Besides the shortage, officials have created a new problem. In CV Raman Nagar Hospital, officials have invoked an emergency measure to procure iron chelation tablets from a manufacturer though the product is not prescribed by the doctors.

"CV Raman Nagar hospital had bought local generic iron chelation medicines on their own in July 2022 which our thalassemics cannot take as we have been prescribed celation medicines only from Novartis, Cipla and Sun Pharma as they are found to be effective and we are responding better to them," the society said in a letter to T K Anil Kumar, Principal Secretary for Department of Health and Family Welfare.

To a question, president of the Society Gagandeep Singh Chandok said there was no shortage of money. "The Centre allots about Rs 7 to 8 crore every year for procurement of the drugs. We have been running from pillar to post for the past two years requesting officials to provide medicine. Since the shortage, several members of society have faced life-and-death situations. We have filed public interest litigation. Still, the government has not fixed the problem," he said.

As per procedure, the medicines are procured by the National Health Mission's (NHM) Karnataka unit. Officials in the Health Department said a tender was floated to procure the drugs but a legal challenge delayed the process.

NHM Karnataka Mission Director Dr Arundhati Chandrashekhar was not available for comment.

Health Commissioner D Randeep said the Principal Secretary has taken up the issue. "We have been asked to look into the complaint and take necessary steps. We are also assessing the quality of drugs procured by the CV Raman Nagar hospital. It will be sorted soon," he said.

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Published 23 October 2022, 15:28 IST

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