Blood cancer or leukaemia is a growing disease in Pakistan, affecting both genders and all age groups. This observation was made by consultant oncologist Dr. Saleem Siddiqui while addressing media persons here at Shifa International on Tuesday.
Although there is no credible data to measure the incidence or prevalence of leukaemia, or for that matter, many diseases in Pakistan, doctors make such observations on the basis of increasing number of patients visiting their clinics with a specific disease, in this case leukaemia.
Dr. Siddiqui said, blood cancer is a deadly but silent disease that can effectively be controlled if diagnosed on time. The real management of the disease involves bone marrow transplant; however, there are certain reservations about such an intervention. Firstly, it is a costly treatment and not common in Pakistan.
Secondly, it needs a donor whose bone marrow matches with that of the patient. Thirdly, the mortality rate among those who opt for bone marrow transplant is about 30%, and in 40% of the cases, there is a chance of reoccurrence of the disease after treatment. “On the other hand, Dr. Salim Siddiqui said, “Continuous medication for blood cancer is effective and makes the life of the patient comfortable till the medicine works.” Dr. Siddiqui said many patients cannot get themselves treated due to non-affordability. “Shifa International felt its responsibility and came forward to serve the needy. With the support of Pharma Co. Novartis, Shifa has been able to arrange and to provide free medicines for blood cancer patients. This facility covers patients belonging to upper Punjab, Islamabad and Rawalpindi, NWFP, Fata, Azad Kashmir and Afghanistan. “These patients are either referred to us by doctors in these areas, or they come to us directly,” he informed.
Dr. Siddique shared that a patient’s monthly dosage of medicines costs Rs120,000 to 200,000. “When a patient comes to us, some screening through tests is done to determine the suitability of drugs. In 95% cases, it is positive. All patients return to the clinic for follow-up every 4 to 6 weeks. At that time, certain tests are performed to determine the effectiveness of the medicine taken,” said Dr. Siddiqui. Shifa has been facilitating such patients for the last 4 years. “Currently, we have 592 registered patients. The medicines provided to them cost Rs721 million per year, with the monthly expense on these patients being approximately Rs60 million,” he shared.
Dr. Siddiqui assured that regardless of their number, all patients who test positive for the available drug will be served by Shifa without discrimination. At present, about 180 patients are coming through Shifa Foundation alone; these patients pay only Rs50 as initial registration while the rest pay only the consultancy fee and a discounted charge for the required tests.
Dr. Siddiqui concluded with an appeal to the media to support this noble cause by providing the right information to the general public.
Source: The News International, 12-feb-09