Provinces asked to implement thalassaemia law

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ISLAMABAD: Minister for National Health Services (NHS) Saira Afzal Tarar on Friday blamed provinces for the consistent increase in thalassaemic patients suffering as they failed to implement the laws to control the disease.

“Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and Punjab have passed laws on thalassaemia prevention proposing compulsory screening of couples before marriage but Pakistan is still witnessing rise in thalassaemic population due to lack of coordination and efforts to control and prevent the disease,” the minister said while speaking at an event held to mark World Thalassaemia Day at Islamabad Club.

There are estimated 10 million thalassemia carriers in Pakistan out of which around 100,000 have thalassaemia major. Besides, 5,000 to 6,000 new cases of thalassaemia major are added every year and 22,000 patients are registered with private and public sector thalassaemia centers annually in the country.

It is a preventable hereditary genetic disorder. If two thalassaemia carriers get married then in every pregnancy there are 25 per cent chances that the child will be thalassaemia major.

Because of the disease, body stops making red blood cells. The only cure is ‘bone marrow transplant’ which is not only very expensive but also requires a donor. Disease can be detected with a simple blood test. Patient has to take medicines worth thousands of rupees and blood once and sometimes twice a month.

Ms Tarar said that The Safe Blood Transfusion Programme had initiated consultations with the Thalassemia Federation of Pakistan to control the disease because thalassaemics consume almost 30 per cent of the total blood donations in Pakistan.

“Ministry of NHS is working on developing a National Thalassaemia Policy to determine the best approach, strategy and plan to control and eradicate the disease from Pakistan. We are also coordinating with Thalassaemia International Federation and World Health Organization to seek technical assistance for the eradication of the disease,” she said.

Meanwhile, conference on thalassaemia was held at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims). A large number of citizens, medical experts, students and children suffering with the disease participated in the conference.

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