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Cancer patients to get free targeted therapy

March 03, 2014

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PESHAWAR: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would start targeted therapy of cancer patients under the free treatment programme, to be launched within a month, officials said.

“We have completed all formalities to start targeted therapy of patients at the hospital. Under it, the patients will receive medicines that will kill only cancer cells in the body,” said Prof Abid Jameel, head of medical oncology ward at Hayatabad Medical Complex, Peshawar.

He said that the treatment regime, introduced worldwide more than two decade ago, was extremely expensive owing to which 95 per cent of the cancer patients couldn’t afford it.

“In Pakistan, this treatment regime is available at Shaukat Khanum Memorial and Cancer Hospital, Lahore; Aga Khan Hospital, Karachi and Combined Military Hospital, Rawalpindi. It saves patients from the avoidable complications of the drugs,” he said.

Prof Abid said that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would become first province to introduce targeted therapy of cancer patients free of cost regardless of their financial status. The government had released Rs500 million to four cancer treatment centres in the province.

Sources said that the amount was allocated in September 2012 for free treatment of cancer patients in the province but the programme couldn’t be materialised because of the prolonged delay in sorting out modalities by health department.

According to them, the government released Rs150 million each to Hayatabad Medical Complex (HMC) and Institute of Radiotherapy and Nuclear Medicines (Irnum) and Rs100 million each to Ayub Teaching Hospital and Institute of Nuclear, Oncology and Radiotherapy, Abbottabad to purchase medicines on their own and avoid further delay in launching of the programme.

Sources said that health department had already sent a list of the recommended medicines to the hospitals that would be required to procure the desired drugs in line with the prescribed specifications.

About 50 anti-cancer drugs had been short-listed by the health department, they added.

Sources said that the hospitals were asked to sign agreements with about 12 manufacturers, approved by a technical committee of the government, to ensure early purchase of medicines.

Sources said that only residents of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were entitled to avail the free treatment. “We had asked Fata Secretariat to provide funds for treatment of tribal patients under the programme, but there was no response,” officials said.

Prof Abid said that they had sent letters to the pharmaceutical firms to start the programme at the earliest.

The programme seeks to register all kinds of patients except those, who are in stage four of the disease and have zero chances of treatment.

However, there is no bar on patients owing to their age because some of the cancers that occur in elderly patients are still curable.

“A total of 4,000 patients will benefit from the programme over a period of one year,” Prof Abid said.

He said that the government had indicated to extend the programme after one year. The patients seen at proper hospital and diagnosed after certain tests would be enlisted, he said.

He said that patients would undergo full course of treatment irrespective of the cost. The cost of the targeted therapy per patient ranged from Rs100,000 to Rs2.5 million but the patients would not be charged, Prof Abid said.