Law Creating Hurdles for Thalassemia Patients

Law Creating Hurdles for Thalassemia PatientsLaw Creating Hurdles for Thalassemia Patients

The recent removal of important thalassemia medications from the list of drugs covered by insurance companies has created problems for patients, according to the head of the Iranian Thalassemia Association.

The 2017-18 budget tells insurance companies to stop covering the expenses of foreign drugs in favor of the locally-produced alternatives. Some of these drugs include deferoxamine and deferasirox, both commonly used medicines most people cannot afford.

Now the patients who still want to use the foreign brands have to pay out of their own pockets.

According to Dr. Majid Arasteh, 60% of thalassemic patients in Iran take their meds intravenously, of which 60% exclusively use foreign drugs which they trust and use.

“These people have been using specific brands for years, but the new law effectively forces them suddenly change the brand of their drugs, which may have physiological and psychological side-effects,” he told ILNA.

The same is also true for those taking foreign-branded oral medicines, Arasteh added.

“There was a shortage of domestically-produced oral drugs in the second half of the last fiscal year (ended March 20),” he said. “If pharmaceutical companies are going to follow the law, they absolutely must meet the standards of foreign meds and ensure constant production; they can’t just stop making drugs for a while.”

Highlighting the importance of access to quality thalassemia medication, Arasteh said the drugs play a key role in the quality of life of patients.

“The shift to new, locally-made drugs must take place slowly and in stages because otherwise it may endanger a patient’s life and impose heavy financial burdens,” he added.

He said multiple sclerosis patients are dealing with similar problems as those suffering from thalassemia, and called for a quick resolution.

“A major problem is that, unlike in the developed world, thalassemia drugs aren’t vigorously assessed before entering the market,” Arasteh said, noting that pharmaceutical companies use different formulas to make the same drug which could lead to adverse physiological reactions if a patient is used to a specific formula.


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