Prof A. Ghaffar Billoo, chairman of the department of paediatrics at the Aga Khan University Hospital, said that about 5,000 children were born in Pakistan with thalassaemia every year.He
added that no fewer than 50,000 children were afflicted with the hereditary blood disorder in the country.
"When parents are told that their newborn babies are struck with thalassaemia, their initial reaction is that of shock which soon gives way to anxiety.Then they explore all those methods of alternative treatment whose practitioners promise to eliminate the disease.This phase is followed by depression and suicidal tendencies."
Shedding light on thalassaemia management techniques, Prof Billoo
spoke about monthly blood transfusion."A thalassaemia patient has to be given 250 millilitres of blood per kilogramme every year.He
also has to be given folic acid, vitamin E, vitamin C and tea."The other techniques included iron chelating therapy desferroximine (25mg/kg/day five days a week), splenectomy and bone marrow transplantation from compatible siblings. He
said that whereas the success rate of bone marrow transplantation was 80 per cent, the technique was very expensive, costing Rs1 million to Rs5 million."Very few families can afford such a costly treatment for their children afflicted with thalassaemia."
Enumerating the measures that should be taken to prevent thalassaemia, Prof Billoo
said that, first and foremost, information should be disseminated about beta thalassaemia major."People should be screened for thalassaemia.Marriage guidance programmes should be initiated."