KP govt to continue providing free treatment to poor cancer patients

September 23, 2019

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has agreed to continue free treatment programme of the cancer patients and provide free services to patients suffering from other types of the deadly...

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PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has agreed to continue free treatment programme of the cancer patients and provide free services to patients suffering from other types of the deadly disease.

Chief Minister Mahmood Khan is likely to formally announce the continuation of the free treatment for the next three years by signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with a reputed pharmaceutical company, Novartis on Tuesday.

The project was launched in the coalition government of Awami National Party and Pakistan People’s Party in 2011 for helping the poor cancer patients. It was named Begum Nusrat Bhutto Oncology Services. The previous Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led coalition government agreed to continue the programme, but changed its nomenclature to ‘Poor Blood Cancer Patients Project’.

The government and a pharmaceutical company, Novartis, had signed an agreement under “public-private partnership” at that time. It helped poor patients to seek free of charge treatment. The people in the medical fraternity in KP believe that Prof Dr Abid Jameel, head of the Oncology Department of Hayatabad Medical Complex (HMC), is the person behind the success of the free cancer treatment programme in the province.

In Punjab, the government had stopped free cancer treatment that prompted cancer patients to stage protest demonstrations, demanding the government to resume free services and save their lives.

There were a few hundred cancer patients when the programme was first started in 2011.

Presently, around 5,000 cancer patients are getting free treatment under the programme. The project ended in June this year and patients feared they might suffer if the government didn’t extend the programme. However, patients didn’t suffer and they regularly received free treatment during this period.

Under the agreement, the government was supposed to pay for two months of free treatment while Novartis would provide for the remaining 10 months. Prof Dr Abid Jameel was appointed the focal person of the project and the HMC was declared as the focal point, where all cancer patients were supposed to get free medicine since 2011. Since 2011, the KP government has paid Rs2 billion for free treatment while Novartis contributed Rs22 billion to the project. Patients suffering from blood and breast cancer were entitled to get free treatment. However, owing to an unprecedented rise in other types of cancer patients in the province, the KP government has allocated Rs500 million for free treatment of the patients suffering from cancer other than blood and breast cancer.

Dr Abid Jameel told The News that the KP government has not only agreed to continue the treatment programme but decided to pay for around 5000 patients in the next three years. “Currently we are offering free treatment to around 5,000 registered patients and we expect to receive the same number of patients in the coming three years. The KP government and Novartis were kind to agree to provide free treatment to new patients,” he said. He said prices of new and advanced drugs had gone up in the international market, which he said was beyond the reach of the poor cancer patients.

“We would now offer free treatment to our old and new patients alike for which Novartis would pay 8 per cent of the cost,” he said. He said they had already included erstwhile Fata before it was merged in KP, saying out of 5000 cancer patients, 700 belonged to the tribal districts. Dr Abid Jameel confirmed the rise in cancer prevalence, saying their average OPD in HMC was 140. Though they had a very small setup, the services had improved as presently 13 trainee medical officers under his supervision are actively offering services to the patients.

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