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Published: Sunday May 13, 2012 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Sunday May 26, 2013 MYT 11:33:58 AM

New drug to treat thalassemia

KUALA LUMPUR: A new drug for thalassemia children below the age of eight will be available in Malaysia in a month or two.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said patients who were not receiving optimal treatment or experiencing side effects from current drugs would be dispensed the new oral medication called Exjade.

“We are limiting Exjade to patients fitting the three criteria because it costs three times more than other drugs. Patients only need to take one dose a day compared to Desferral.

“Desferral has to be injected over a span of eight hours a day, up to five days a week. Many patients fail to observe the complicated routine and are not treated properly,” he said at an award presentation in conjunction with World Thalassemia Day.

Thalassemia is a genetic blood disorder in which the body makes an abnormal form of haemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen. It results in excessive destruction of red blood cells, which leads to anaemia and can be fatal.

With the right drugs and blood transfusions, a person with thalassemia can live a normal life.

The Cabinet has approved an annual allocation of RM80.9mil for thalassemia treatment and a one-off payment of RM11.7mil to expand control and prevention programmes.

“This includes an additional RM31.9mil to buy Exjade for 916 paediatric patients aged between two and seven, as well as 166 new patients,” said Liow.

He said the incidence of thalassemia had been on the decrease since 2004 and attributed it to public awareness and counselling programmes by the Health Ministry.

The National Thalassemia Registry, which was set up in 2004, recorded some 192 babies born with the disorder that year, but the number has dropped to 82 in 2009.

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