Cancer patients’ lives at stake due to non-availability of life-saving drugs under AB scheme

*SHA acting as mute spectator, fails to respond

Govind Sharma

JAMMU, June 22: Several patients suffering with a specific type of blood cancer ‘Relapsed Multiple Myeloma’ are on the verge of dying as the drug they need to be given on urgent basis, are not included in the primary package code under Ayushman Bharat scheme.
A number of such cancer patients or their attendants contacted Excelsior and narrated their woes as to how they have been left to die by the State Health Agency (SHA) which did not respond to their repeated communications regarding non-availability of some specific life saving drugs (under Ayushman Bharat scheme) they needed urgently.
They said as per their doctors Carfilzomib injection is used alone to treat Relapsed Multiple Myeloma with which they are suffering but the required medicine is not covered under Ayushman Bharat scheme. The aggrieved patients further informed that Ayushman Bharat scheme allows for use of drugs for cancer patients even if not included in the primary package code provided the treating doctor recommends the same to State Health Agency.
However, they regretted that despite recommending the required drugs by the doctors, the State Health Agency failed to provide the same to them under Ayushman Bharat scheme. “Several time we as well as our doctors have separately sent communications to State Health Agency to provide Carfilzomib injection to us but the concerned officers did not respond to our communications what to say of providing the required drug,” they alleged.
Thoru Ram, one of the aggrieved patients divulged that he is undergoing treatment for Relapsed Multiple Myeloma at a hospital in Jammu under Ayushman Bharat scheme. He said as per his doctor, he needs to be given Carfilzomib injection (2 doses per week) and the 1st dose had to be given on June 9 but his case was yet to be cleared by the medical committee of State Health Agency.
“I personally went to the office of State Health Agency at Rail Head Complex, Jammu with the plea to approve my case for Carfilzomib injection as the same is very costly in the open market and one cannot afford. Moreover, one such case of a patient undergoing treatment at another hospital in Jammu has already been approved by the medical committee and that too within 30 hours without recommendation of the concerned doctor but my case is being delayed with no solid reasons,” he added.
Similar views were expressed by Shubham Sharma from Udhampur whose father Jia Lal is also suffering from Relapsed Multiple Myeloma. He said that more than 12 days have passed since we sent an e-mail to State Health Agency seeking approval for Carfilzomib injection but got no reply, forcing us to borrow Rs 50,000 from one of our relatives to purchase the 3 doses of the required injection from the market at a price of Rs 16,000 per dose as delay in treatment could claim life of my father. He said cancer patients cannot wait more but the officers at State Health Agency are asking us to wait without giving any time line and at the same time selectively approving cases of some patients within 48 hours.
When contacted, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), State Health Agency J&K, Ayushi Sudan said that they provide only those medicines which are included in primary package code. “We approve drugs not covered in the primary package in special cases only and that too on the recommendation of the concerned doctor. In every case it is not possible for us due to budget constraints,” she added but failed to explain how the case they approved was special one while many other patients are also suffering with same disease and need same drug that has been provided in the so called special case in which the patient was also quite well off.
However, the officer said that they have written to National Health Agency to add some more life saving drugs in the Ayushman package.