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Organ receivers seek rebate on drugs

THE campaign for cadaver transplant has gained momentum in the last few years. The transplant, in which organs are harvested from a brain dead person, is considered as an elixir of life to people who are in need of these organs.

However, apart from the expensive surgery cost, the patients have to bear the cost of immunosuppressants that the receiver has to take throughtout the life time to ensure that the body does not reject the organ. Patients have to spend nearly Rs 15-30 thousand every month on immunosuppressants alone depending on the dosage prescribed. 

Pratibha S D spends close to Rs 30,000 a month on immunosuppressants, blood investigation, etc. She has to take six tablets a day. Pratibha underwent a liver transplant a year ago for which her family of six took a bank loan, as the entire procedure came to more than Rs 25 lakh. 

Pratibha was working in the clinical research field but had to quit work after her condition – liver cirrhosis – worsened. Last week, she began doing a temporary job in a firm close to her home. 

“The medicines (immunosuppressant) are a huge expense on us, as my brothers too are repaying the bank loan,” she said. Her brother Gururaj said they are somehow managing but if the government after consulting with transplant surgeons brings out a policy providing immunosuppressants free of cost to transplant patients for the first two years, it would be of great help. 

C V Ramachandran, who underwent a liver transplant after being detected with metastatic liver disease (cancer originating from elsewhere and affecting liver), shells out about Rs 30,000 a month, which he says he got after using some influence in the pharma company. 

“I am paying so much even after a rebate. Otherwise, I would have to pay close to Rs 50,000,” he said. 

Admitting that the high cost of immunosuppressants was a problem, BGS Global Hospitals chief transplant surgeon Mohamed Rela, said: “Patients who have undergone organ transplant have to take immunosuppressants for life. The State should fund the cost of these medicines because only a small percentage of the population goes for organ transplants.” 

He informs the patients about the immunosuppressants before the surgery to give patients a choice. Interestingly, 10 per cent of the transplant patients develop tolerance to the foreign organs, Rela said.    

H C Ramesh, deputy director, medical, Department of Health and Family Welfare said the Centre had to take the decision to declare immunosuppressants as life savings drugs by bringing them under the purview of Drug Price Control Order. 

“I don’t even think they  know about this issue. The Central government should ask pharma companies making these immunosuppressant drugs to bring down the MRP (maximum retail price) price of the drugs for transplant patients,” he said. 

(Published in Deccan Herald on 20th June, 2010)

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