Ministry launches drive to combat thalassemia

January 16, 2011


Do you carry thalassemia gene? The Union health ministry will soon find out. Recognizing the tremendous burden of thalassemia, the ministry has decided to launch a national programme to combat this genetic blood disorder.

In thalassemia patients, the bone marrow does not form normal red blood cells. Hence, the patient’s survival depends on repeated blood transfusions throughout life — once in every 2-4 weeks.

Union health secretary K Chandramouli told TOI that the urgency of such a national programme was unanimously accepted by state health ministers during a recent meeting in Hyderabad.

“The modalities of the programme will now be worked out in consultation with experts,” Chandramouli said. He added, “The programme will look at testing blood samples of adults before they marry. If two adults with the thalassemia gene marry, chances are very high of their baby being born with the disease. Since, majority can’t afford its treatment, we will soon start a pilot project.”

BMT Centre To Come Up In City

November 23, 2010


Patients suffering from thallassemia will soon be able to obtain the services of a Centre for Bone Marrow Transplant in the city itself.

A team of doctors from Italy are currently in the city, to find the best possible hospital to set up the BMT unit.

Doctor Pietro Sodani told media persons that he and his team will, under the aegis of ‘Cure Thallassemina India’, a non-profit, non-political and secular organisation providing support to health professionals in developing countries, will finalise the hospital after going through the various corporate hospitals in the city.

Dr. Pietro revealed that very few centres for BMT exist in India, and that the city will soon join other cities like Vellore, Bangalore and Delhi after one is set up here.

He also revealed that the BMT Centre will provide relief to about 1,400 known thallassemia patients in the State.

Thalassemia Major is a fatal blood disorder which not only destroys red blood cells but also produces defective red blood cells. It requires life-long blood transfusion, every 3 to 4 weeks, and medicines, failing which 90% of children afflicted by it would die in childhood. BMT is the only known cure.

Summer brings drought of blood donors: Experts (June 14 is World Blood Donors Day)

June 13, 2010


New Delhi, June 13 (IANS) Six-year-old Anushka suffers from thalassemia and requires regular blood transfusion. However, arranging one unit of ‘A negative’ blood has become a nightmare for her parents, as summer brings an acute shortage of donors in the capital.

Delhi’s blood banks often dry up in summer owing to dwindling blood donation camps, which in turn rely heavily on student donors who are usually away on vacation at this time of the year.

“Mostly students contribute blood. With schools and colleges shut for summer vacation, the blood banks run out of blood and its components. There is a sharp fall in blood donation camps during summer,” N.K. Bhatia, medical director of Rotary Blood Bank, Noida, told IANS.

“There is so much shortage of blood during summer and on top of that many blood banks waste human blood – at least 30 percent,” Bhatia said.

“There is irrational use of blood in India. One unit of blood belonging to the same group can be used by three different patients,” he added.

According to a senior official from the blood safety division of the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO): “India requires 10 million units of blood every year, but the country manages to get only 7.9 million units. Out of 7.9 million units, 68 percent is donated by volunteers.”

Delhi-NCR requires 600,000 units of blood a year (around 40,000 units of blood each month) but it gets only 400,000 units.

At least 100,000 pregnant women die every year because of shortage of blood in the country. Many thalassemia patients also die every year because of shortage of blood.

“Over 65 percent of our donors are from educational institutions. Most educational institutions are on holidays at this time and hence there is a huge shortage in supply. Usually during this time we ask relatives of patients to replace the blood,” said Amar Sharma, compounder at a civic body-run hospital.

Shortage of blood and its components during the summer gives rise to various illegal activities, such as illegal sale of blood, say health officials.

The price of rare blood group types like ‘O negative’ and ‘AB negative’ are quite high. In private blood banks, the processed blood of the above category can go up from Rs.1,500 to Rs.5,000 per unit. The prescribed rate by the government is Rs.500 per unit.

“Under the supervision of government authorities, the private blood banks can also organise blood donation camps. It will help in coping with the shortage of blood that arises during summer,” said Rasika Setia, consultant in transfusion medicine at the Dr. B.L. Kapur Memorial Hospital.

“The population we rely on for donating blood – students in schools and colleges – go on holiday during summer and there are no routine blood donation camps happening during this period,” she added.

Countering that no such shortage prevails, a senior official from the blood safety division of NACO told IANS on condition of anonymity: “There is no such shortage in the city so far. We have a good model of voluntary donations. Not only the student community but there is a mixed population now coming forward to donate blood.”

A volunteer from an NGO suggested ways to tackle the problem.

“Employees of IT and BPO industry can be approached for blood donation during summer. Mobile blood units should be set up at various shopping malls,” he said.

Blood disorder patients from Kerala’s Malabar march to Parliament

October 30, 2009

Courtesy by:

New Delhi: Chronic blood disorder patients and their parents from Kerala’s Malabar region today unsuccessfully tried to march towards the Indian Parliament to press the central government for their long pending demand of free and expert treatment to them whom the state government has so far neglected.

The protestors comprising women and children under the banner of Blood Patients’ Protection Council (BPPC) submitted a memorandum to the Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad demanding the government to provide free treatment to these patients suffering with deadly diseases like thalassemia, haemophilia sickle cell anemia, applastic anemia, leukemia etc.

BPPC has been fighting for better treatment to these patients of Malabar region for the last 15 years. The group has undertaken many agitations including a state secretariat march on February 28, 2001 with terminally ill patients demanding free and expert treatment from Calicut MCH. The Kerala Government has not shown interest to solve the problem. Now they have decided to take out a Parliament march.

Talking to Kareem Karassery, General Convener, BPPC, said: “For the last one and half decades we have been fighting for life saving drugs and expert treatment to these acute blood disorder patients but neither the state nor central government have so far heeded to our demand. So we have arrived here to highlight our issue at the national level.” More than 10,000 people are suffering from various blood disorders in Malabar region, he added.

The protestors have put 10 demands before the government. They include urgent prevention of genetic blood disorders and other birth disorders which are alarmingly growing Malabar area, setting up a health insurance for the complete treatment of acutely ill patients irrespective of their income or age limit, proper facilities for treatment of the related diseases at the MCH Calicut.

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