Sindh Govt’s reluctance puts life of blood cancer patients in jeopardy

Ali OusatWeb Editor

14th Sep, 2021. 07:39 pm

KARACHI: The life of 30-year old Sumaira Malik, along with 4,000 others blood cancer patients, is in danger as the Sindh Government is reluctant to sign an agreement with pharmaceutical giant Novartis to continue their medicine.

“I have been waiting for months to get the medicines. I was diagnosed with CML (chronic myelogenous leukemia) in 2012. Later, I started to take 400mg of Gleevic. The same year, my BCR-ABL test came negative. But as per SOPs (stand operating systems) I have to take the medicine to keep the illness suppressed,” said Sumaira.

She fears that if she misses the medicine then the illness may “relapse” and she will not survive it once it comes back.

“The Sindh government must act accordingly and provide the medicines to the patients,” she appealed to the Murad Ali Shah-led government.

However, it’s not only Sumaira that is battling this disease, there are around 4,000 other patients that also suffer from CML and are being treated in Sindh.

The patients were being provided medicines from Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi. It is the only cancer unit that is providing treatment for the disease under the supervision of Dr Noor Muhammad Soomro.

However, for the last three months, the patients have been facing hurdles to get the medicine because the Sindh government abruptly stopped giving the drug to the poor patients.

Nasir Hussain, who had travelled to Karachi from Nawabshah, was diagnosed with CML in 2015 and was asked to register for the medicines at the hospital.

But recently the hospital administration asked him to go to a private clinic where he was being charged Rs1,000 for a medical check-up.

“For three months they have not been providing us medicines despite the fact that we are willing to pay Rs1,000 as a bribe,” Nasir told Bol News.

While sharing his misery, Nasir wondered why he was being asked to go to a private clinic when it was a government-run programme. He alleged that the government was doing so to get more money from the “pockets of poor people”.

“They are giving us locally made medicine in which we have developed different complications in our body,” said the patient. He also claimed that some people from the Civil Hospital have been involved in “mega corruption” and are “earning millions of rupees under the nose of the government”.

Pharmaceutical company says its contract has expired

When contacted, a representative of Novartis Pharmaceutical Pakistan shared that his company’s contract with the Sindh government had expired in June 2020 but it was still providing the medicines till July 2021.

“Unfortunately government has not renewed the contract as of yet due to some unknown reason,” he added.

The official also shared that they had received information that the government was approaching local companies or Indian manufacturers for the drug. He also confirmed that medicine was causing complications to the patients.

“But [buying local medicines] would be a government decision, if they renew our contract then we are ready to provide the medicine for the benefit of the people,” assured the representative.

MS denies corruption

Civil Hospital Karachi’s Medical Superintendent Dr Noor Muhammad Somroo, who is responsible for the programme, admitted that the medicine was not being provided to the patients for the last three or four months.

However, he explained that the government had not renewed the contract as they wanted to “break the monopoly of the single pharmaceutical company”.

Dr Soomro, while denying the corruption allegations, said that the government would soon issue new tenders to resume the supply of the medicines.

When questioned about the tenders, the doctor claimed that the bids would open in the next two to three weeks.

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