Thalassemia: Experts calls for mandatory screening, prevention program on mission mode

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Approximately 10,000 children are born with Thalassemia each year, a genetic disorder impairing the body’s ability to produce enough red blood cells. This adds to the existing burden of over 150,000 patients. In the wake of World Thalassaemia Day observed recently, the health experts have called for mandating Thalassemia screening and launch a prevention program on a mission mode in the country.

In an event held jointly by Indraprastha Apollo Hospital and Thalassemics India to commemorate International Thalassemia Day with a symposium titled “Transforming Care and Cure for Thalassemia by Leveraging Genomics and Bone Marrow Transplant,” the health expert said that the only curative option available is a Bone Marrow Transplant. “But currently, only about 500 children undergo bone marrow transplants for Thalassemia, despite 10,000 new cases every year.

Experts have highlighted bone marrow transplants as the definitive cure, and emerging genomic technologies that can significantly improve outcomes for patients with this challenging condition. In India, most children rely on regular blood transfusions to compensate for the deficiency. However, transfusion therapy comes with certain complications such as iron overload and severe immune reactions, necessitating additional supportive treatment. Insufficient access to high-quality treatment can lead to various complications negatively impacting the patients’ quality of life.

The only curative option available is a Bone Marrow Transplant. “But currently, only about 500 children undergo bone marrow transplants for Thalassemia, despite 10,000 new cases every year. The clinical outcomes of BMT have shown significant improvement over the years, and even with half-matched or unmatched transplants, success rates of 80-90 percent are possible being achieved,” says Dr. Gaurav Kharya, Director, Department of Bone Marrow Transplant and Cellular Therapies at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital.

Shobha Tuli, Secretary of Thalassemics India, called on the government to mandate Thalassemia screening and launch a prevention program on a mission mode. “And it is equally important to empower our thalassemia patients with accessible and continuous treatment options.”