Acute shortage of Deferoxamine threatening the lives of patients with Thalassemia in Iran

By: Mojtaba Samie nejad, 15th Onvember 2012
Translator: Banafsheh Ranji

Deferoxamine is a main medicine used by patients with Thalassemia. The shortage of the drug supply, that began in the past years, has been faced a severe condition over the past few months and has put the lives of patients with Thalassemia in danger.
Deferoxamine is used by injection to remove excess iron from the body and if the patients do not use this medicine, they face heart, digestion and liver disorders.
In the first round, the shortage of this medicine has started by reduction of import in order to produce and sale the similar Iranian medicines such as Desfonak. Desfonak has been distributed among patients with Thalassemia since 2007. Contrary to the view of some officials, the high toll and the low quality of the medicine has resulted to the objection of patients. The objections led to the temporary cut on supply of the medicine in March of last year.
Iranian Thalassemia society supported the cut and in a letter wrote to Mehr news agency about this drug: ‘Despite the production of this medicine in Europe, none of the European countries have confirmed the efficiency of this medicine and have not used this medicine as a treatment for their patients. Allergy, pruritus, lethargy and nausea are the important side effects of the medicine in patients with thalassemia. The supply of Deferoxamine had been cut by the arrival of Desfonak. But, emerging the side effects, pharmacies sold both Desfonak and Deferoxamine to patients one among. At the beginning, 100 Deferoxamine were given to each patient, but this number has decreased during the last two years.
My brother is suffering from Thalassemia and he has not had access to the medicine about 3 months due to the shortage of Deferoxamine. On 15th November, after 3 month he could purchase 30 of them from Torfe pharmacy, the place for distribution of the medicine, but this amount is enough for just a week. The shortage of the medicine during the 3 months caused heart disorder in my brother and it is vague that how he would be able to have access to the medicine after a week.
The problem is the same problem of thousand patients with Thalassemia in Iran. On 15th November in Torfe pharmacy, only 100 of patients succeeded in purchasing the medicine and the others left without the medicine.
Majid Arasteh, head of Iranian Thalassemia society declares that ‘there are 20 thousands patients with hemoglobin disorders in Iran that around 17 thousands of them are suffering from Thalassemia major. These patients are in need of special care and they must take the medicine.
The Swiss company, which produces Deferoxamine, has another product, Exjade that Thalassemia patients can take it. However, Exjade is not covered by insurance and it is expensive. The price of the medicine in the last March was 4000 Tomans. Some patients must take one or two of them daily, so the monthly expense would be high.
However, the most substantial reason for the shortage of Deferoxamine and other drugs in last year has been the lack of funding for the health sector by government. According to the Minister of health, ‘two and a half billion dollars needed to import medicine in the current year, but only 600 million dollars has been allocated to this affair’.
While some officials try to associate the medicine sector problems to the international sanctions, Hosseinali Shahriari , head of health committee, claims that ‘ in the last 6 months, the central bank has not allocated any amount of dollar to the health sector and there has been a mismanagement in the field’.
According to Mehr news agency, he says that ‘I warned the president about the funding on health and medicine sector, otherwise there would be a disaster’. He continues ‘Unfortunately there has been no attention to this matter so far’.
Around 20 thousand patients with Thalassemia are facing the shortage of Deferoxamine. The problem targets all the special patients and resembles to a disaster, but Islamic Republic of Iran has not been solved it regardless of their promise.

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