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Institute receives fresh stocks

Guwahati, Aug. 22: Free cancer drugs are available in Assam again.

The B. Borooah Cancer Institute (BBCI) here, the lone full-fledged cancer institute in the Northeast, has started receiving 27 drugs to provide free chemotherapy treatment to cancer victims since the past week.

BBCI director Amal Chandra Kataki told The Telegraph that the hospital has enough stock of free medicines at present and it can continue treatment for a month with the existing drugs.

“We wrote to Sanjeeva Kumar, principal secretary of health and family, Assam, requesting him to ensure regular supply of free medicines. We are grateful that he responded promptly and positively to our request. Once the existing stock of medicines is exhausted, we will again send a requisition. Even though chemotherapy needs various types of anti-cancer drugs, the government has been able to provide all the essential drugs in the 27 items,” he said.

The Telegraph had reported last month that irregular supply of medicines had hobbled the free chemotherapy scheme. Chief minister Tarun Gogoi had launched the scheme in March 2008, after the government got reports of many patients who had lost their battle with cancer owing to financial hardship.

The rate for one session of chemotherapy varies from Rs 5,000 to Rs 2 lakh.

BBCI could provide only 1,624 cycles of free chemotherapy to patients from January to June this year. A patient can undergo up to six such cycles.

When the scheme was launched in 2008, BBCI provided 5,284 cycles of chemotherapy, followed by 8,149 in 2009, 7,963 in 2010, 8,434 in 2011, 6,402 in 2012 and 6,639 last year.

Gauhati Medical College and Hospital, Assam Medical College and Hospital in Dibrugarh and Silchar Medical College and Hospital have also started receiving free cancer drugs.

According to a health department official, cancer patients can avail of the Assam Arogya Nidhi scheme under which financial assistance up to Rs 1.5 lakh is given for treatment. Dispur annually releases Rs 2.5 crore for the scheme and the Centre gives a like amount, making a total fund of Rs 5 crore. Besides cancer, heart surgery, kidney transplant, HIV, AIDS, chronic mental illness and brain tumour are covered under the scheme.