Artificial scarcity of thalassemia drug feared

Over 1 lakh people face threat to life.
Over 1 lakh people face threat to life.
Desefral, the life-saving drug used by thalassemia patients, has been in short supply across the country for around a year, posing a potential risk to the lives of over one lakh people.

The shortage has prompted several thalassemia societies and associations and haematologists to write to Union health minister JP Nadda and many state governments for immediate intervention. Patients, doctors, health activists and drug wholesalers told TOI the shortage became acute in the last one month. While Punjab, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh are said to be still reeling under a severe shortage, some stocks were restored in Delhi and Bengaluru over the past week following a social media campaign.
However, Swiss drug maker Novartis -the only company selling the drug in India -has denied the claims of short supply. “There has been no shortage of Desferal 500 mg injections in the last one year. At present, there are sufficient stocks to meet the needs of patients,” a Novartis spokesperson said in respon se to an e-mail query .
Some health activists say the shortage may be artificially created to jack up prices and, therefore, needs immediate government intervention in public interest.
In a letter to Nadda, Muralidharan Vishwanath, secretary , National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled, wrote, “Despite the company claiming that they have enough stocks, it seems an artificial shortage has been created. We seek your urgent intervention to see that the lives of thousands of Thalassemics are not put in danger.”
Thalassemia is a genetic blood disorder that makes the body produce less haemoglobin. The resultant low red blood cell count causes mild to severe anaemia.