Patients with this type of blood cancer need to take Glivec, a drug developed by Novartis, every day. A patient will have to spend Rs.1.5 lakh a month on the drug that has to be taken life-long, Director of the cancer institute P. Guhan told presspersons here on Monday. Through the Max Foundation in India, Novartis was providing the drug free of cost to poor patients as part of its corporate-social responsibility.
A 32-year-old woman from the city was the first patient to receive the drug from Managing Trustee of S.N.R. Sons Charities R. Venkatesulu.The SRIOR, a part of the Sri Ramakrishna Hospital, was the third centre in the State after the Adyar Cancer Institute and the Christian Medical College Hospital in Vellalore to provide the free drug.
More than 10 other centres such as the Tata Memorial Cancer Centre in Mumbai, the Regional Cancer Centre in Thiruvananthapuram and Kidwai Cancer Centre in Bangalore were also part of this project called G-PAP (Glivec-Patient Assistance Programme). More than 15,000 patients had benefited so far through these centres, Dr. Guhan said.
The disease was marked by a huge excess of white blood cells produced in the bone marrow because of a defective chromosome called Philadelphia Chromosome. At least 14 per cent of the blood cancer patients suffered from this type and they died in five to seven years since the disease struck them.The drug specifically targeted the Philadelphia Chromosome present in the bone marrow and blood in order to rid the patient of the disease. The drug could be used to treat gastro intestinal stromal tumour, even after it spread to the liver or lung, Dr. Guhan said.
The regional centre could choose patients after verifying their income and apply to the foundation online for free drugs. A regional centre in Coimbatore would help patients avoid the cost of travel to centres in Chennai, Thiruvananthapuram and Bangalore, Dr. Guhan said.