In Mosul, "drugs shortages" threatening the lives of Thalassemia


Shafaq News/  Inside a small hall in Mosul, dozens of Thalassemia patients gather every day to undergo a blood transfusion due to this chronic and serious disease.

According to the Iraqi Ministry of Health's 2019 statistics, there are about 22,000 Thalassemia patients in Iraq.

Hazim Salih, a young man with Thalassemia, told Shafaq News agency that the situation of Thalassemia patients in Mosul has become very difficult lately. They need financial support and special care as they undergo a blood transfusion every fortnight.

Salih said these visits are too expensive for the patients' families, some of whom do not even have the transportation costs, especially since most of them are from rural areas.

He pointed to the lack of Desferal, a drug used to reduce the blood's Iron levels – as its rise is life-threatening to Thalassemia patients.

Salih explained that they have been suffering from the shortage of this drug for a while and that it is not available in the black market - and even if it is available, it is very expensive, and patients cannot afford to buy it.

Ibn Al-Atheer Hospital on the left side of Mosul is undergoing a reconstruction campaign. This prompted them to use an alternative site with one reception hall for patients in the light of the Coronavirus (COVİD-19) outbreak.

According to official statistics, Nineveh has 1,260 Thalassemia patients; including 900 patients on constant follow up, according to Dr. Madin Fawzi Al Ghurair.

Al Ghurair explained that the drug used for treating Thalassemia patients is restricted to inpatient use and it is not available in the local pharmacies. There is a shortage of Desferal, an effective substance to reduce the blood's Iron levels in the patients who are desperately waiting for it to be available again soon.

Mohammed Farhan, a father of three Thalassemia patients, said that financial aid is completely non-existent, demanding the local government to provide medical care to them - especially since Thalassemia is not an acute disease that wanes in a day or two. However, it lasts for a lifetime, "There are many families who cannot admit their patients to the hospital regularly because they cannot afford the transportation expenses. This is real suffering - especially since many of the patients' families are in difficult financial condition".

Thalassemia is caused by a hemolytic genetic defect that leads to a severe deficiency in the production of blood proteins called Globin, the main component of Hemoglobin found in Red Blood Cells.

Hemoglobin is responsible for carrying Oxygen from the lungs to various parts of the body.. Hemoglobin deficiency leads to Anemia, rapid breakage in Red Blood Cells, and a lack of Oxygen responsible for all the Metabolic functions in the body. 

Thalassemia affects the age of red blood cells, where a mutation in Hemoglobin components occurs, breaking down these cells.

The body tries to compensate for the deficiency by increasing Red Blood Cells production. Thus, non-blood-producing organs are prompted to generate the excess Red Blood Cells needed, resulting in a bulge of the skull and the enlarged Spleen and Liver.

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