Materia Medica Malaysiana

May 29, 2008

Thalassaemia testing for students

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 11:33 am

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Form Four students will soon have to undergo screening for thalassaemia.
The screening, which is to be carried out in phases, is intended to detect carriers of this genetic disease.
They will be counselled against marrying another carrier to avoid producing children with thalassaemia major.
There are 3,591 Malaysians with thalassaemia major. The government is spending some RM29.5 million annually on their treatment, which includes blood transfusion, iron chelation therapy and medication for complications arising from the disease.
The government spends almost RM20 million to buy medical equipment for these patients.
Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said it was important to carry out screening because it would help to reduce the incidence of thalassaemia major in the country and achieve the target of zero patients by 2025.
In Malaysia, it is estimated that one in 20 people are carriers.
“Our focus is basically to screen those between the ages of 16 and 24.
“The public can also go for screening at designated clinics and hospitals,” he said at the launch of World Thalassaemia Day at Berjaya Times Square yesterday.
There are 242 health clinics and eight hospitals which are equipped with haematology analysers.
The eight hospitals are also equipped with high performance liquid chromatography and gel electrophoresis to conduct screenings.
Liow said a National Thalassaemia Registry was established last year to ascertain the actual number of thalassaemia major patients in the country.
“Treatment for these patients is free at government hospitals.
“The survival rate for the victims has increased with some having lived beyond the age of 35.”
With proper treatment and medication some patients have lived to take up professional careers.
The Thalassaemia Day event was organised by the ministry, UKM Medical Molecular Biology Institute, Malaysian Society of Paediatric Haematology and Oncology and Federation of Malaysian Thalassaemia Societies.
Health Ministry deputy director-general Datuk Dr Ramlee Rahmat said health teams would go into schools and talk to students about thalassaemia and urge them to go for checks at designated health clinics and hospitals.
Dr Ramlee said if measures were not taken to reduce the incidence of thalassaemia major, the government would have to allocate an exorbitant sum for the management and treatment of the disease. It costs between RM25,000 and RM35,000 to treat a patient annually.
According to World Health Organisation statistics, some 300,000 children are born every year with red blood cell genetic disorders known as haemoglobinopathy and of that number, some 70,000 are thalassaemia patients.
Dr Hishamshah Mohd Ibrahim of Kuala Lumpur Hospital’s Paediatric Institute warned the public that traditional medicine cannot cure the disease.

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