Anti-cancer drugs dropped from essential drugs list

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Kolkata, April 22: Two life-saving drugs for treating cancer have been dropped from the new list of essential drugs issued by the department of health and family welfare. These medicines are part of the free drug policy for state government hospitals. The new list was published on 1 April.
A senior doctor of Nil Ratan Sircar Hospital points out that a life-saving capsule and a tablet are missing from the list. The capsule is a “targeted therapy” for killing cancer cells rapidly.
It is prescribed in the case of blood cancer like “chronic lymphocytic leukemia” (CLL), “Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia” and as a second stage treatment for “mantle cell lymphoma (MCL).”
On the other hand, the tablet is necessary to treat chronic “myeloid leukemia” (CML) , a type of cancer of white blood cells. The tablet helps in stopping or slowing the spread of cancer cells.
“The medicines are very costly and poor patients can ill afford them”, said the senior doctor of the state hospital.
A cancer patient who is prescribed to take these medicines need to spend over Rs 1.5 lakh every month. “These two are essential medicines and a patient needs to take them daily. I believe the state government is finding it difficult to bear the expenses of these drugs for which it may have decided to drop them from its list. Otherwise, they should have definitely been included in the list”, said Dr Tapas Majhi, director, Chittaranjan Cancer Research Institute.
According to one estimate, the state government can save around Rs 10 crore this year by removing the two drugs from the list.
“To remove the medicines from the medicine list is not a solution. The state government should have thought of an alternative measure before dropping them from the list”, said Dr Goutam Sarkar, an oncologist. A huge cost is entailed in importing the medicines, he added.
“Twenty days have already gone by this month, still no fund has come in making it difficult for us to work,” stated a senior doctor of the state hospital.
Talking to The Statesman, Mrs Chandrima Bhattacharya, minister of state, for health , said she wasn’t aware of any medicines being excluded from the list which “has been prepared by experts.”
Sources said a re-evaluation of the list by the state health department is on the cards and the matter is likely to come up next week. (Courtesy: TS)