First-ever bone marrow transplant unit opens at Central Hospital

Monday, 9 June 2014 00:03 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • First six bone marrow transplant procedures will be performed free of charge
Taking a landmark step in achieving the best in healthcare treatment at national level, Asiri Group of Hospitals has opened Sri Lanka’s first ever Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at their Central Hospital facility. The new unit raises hope for several patients, particularly with haemotological disorders such as thalassemia, who now receive treatment abroad at phenomenal expenses. In a goodwill gesture, the hospital will perform the first six procedures, free of charge. The state-of-the-art unit installed will carry out Allogenic Transplants for the first time in Sri Lanka, treating blood and bone marrow related disorders, a big boon particularly to children diagnosed with Thalassemia for whom a Bone Marrow Transplant will in most instances be a definitive lifetime cure. Bone marrow transplants are often required to treat conditions that result in diseased bone marrow which are unable to produce normal blood cells. The procedure installs new stem cells which take over blood cell production. The diseases treatable through the procedure include severe aplastic anaemia (bone marrow failure) and many types of Leukaemia including acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, acute myeloid leukaemia, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system). The procedure is also capable of treating certain genetic blood and immune system disorders such as sickle cell anaemia, thalassaemia and some deficiency states. Asiri Group of Hospitals Director Dr. Manjula Karunaratne, speaking at the opening, said the Group was happy to re-affirm their commitment to healthcare in Sri Lanka. “In continuation of our journey towards our pledge for meaningful contribution to our Country’s healthcare industry, we are delighted to be able to offer such specialised treatment,” he stated. At present about 7% of Sri Lanka’s national health budget is spent on treatment of Thalasseamia which includes blood transfusions and iron chelation carried out regularly. The prevalence of the affliction is presently about 3,000. With 500,000 identified ‘carriers’. Total cost of treatment for a 25 year old Thalassemic patient is approximately Rs. 17 million for parenteral and approximately Rs. 6.5 million for iron chelation. A relatively low number of patients travel overseas for Bone Marrow Transplant due to the inordinately high costs of such transplant. Specialists Consultants have pointed out the benefit of Bone Marrow Transplant over regular blood transfusions. Children diagnosed with Thalassemia require monthly blood transfusion with treatment starting as early as five months of age and lasting a life span. Blood transfusion costs rise significantly with age too. Commenting on the unit, Dr. Lawrence Faulkner – Consultant Clinical Haematologist, Medical Director at the Cure2Children Foundation, an international not-for-profit organisation facilitating affordable and reliable local care for children suffering from blood related diseases stated, “We are confident that this new unit will make a significant difference to the treatment of children diagnosed with thalassemia and other blood related diseases, offering families hope and a quality, affordable treatment option in Sri Lanka.  We are proud to be involved with the initiation of this project and look forward to working with the Asiri Group for future initiatives.”