Thalassaemia patients worried about shortage of life-saving drug

They say Desferal 500 mg, used to remove excess iron from the body, is in short supply.

Updated - August 28, 2016 11:39 am IST

Published - August 28, 2016 11:36 am IST - BENGALURU:

Thirty-eight-year-old Namita Kumar, a 38-year old living with thalassaemia, is very anxious because at the moment she is left with just one box of Desferal 500 mg — the life-saving injection that she has to use five times a week. “One box is just enough for three transfusions as I need at least three vials per transfusion. There is an acute shortage of this medicine and I do not know what to do,” she says.

This is not an isolated problem, but one faced by many across the country who are struggling to get the life-saving drug. The injection, they say, has been in short supply in the last one year and patients who had stocked it are sharing it among themselves. Desferal is widely used to remove excess iron from the body that accumulates due to frequent blood transfusion. If not taken regularly, the excess iron will damage vital organs.

While Novartis, the company that manufactures the drug, denies that there is any shortage, Thalassaemia Society of Karnataka president Prabir Mukherjee says the shortage has been particularly acute in the past one month.

Even societies have no stock

“Thalassaemia societies in Delhi and Mumbai, who buy it directly from the manufacturer, also do not have a stock now,” he says.

This is corroborated by Shobha Tuli, President of the Federation of Indian Thalassaemics, who says the drug has been out of stock in Delhi for the last 15 days. “We give free medicine to 67 children of which 22 are dependent on Desferal as no other medicine suits them. We don’t have a single vial available for them,” she says.

In reply to an e-mail query, a Novartis spokesperson said: “At present, there are sufficient stocks of Desferal 500 mg to meet the needs of patients. Also, alternative chelation drugs are widely available.”

Patients say Desferal 500 mg, used to remove excess iron from the body, is in short supply.

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