Drug shortage at RCC is real and hurting

Express probe disproves claims of alternative steps being taken
For representational purposes
For representational purposes

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The claims of the Regional Cancer Centre (RCC), Thiruvananthapuram, that it has made oncology medicines available to all patients have proved to be wrong, an inquiry made by Express reveals.

Despite the RCC’s claims that alternative arrangements have been made, patients are in dire straits as they have to pay the full amount for medicines, even for costlier ones like Avastin, which is approved to treat metastatic colorectal cancer. The medicine had a market price of `32,250. If made available through the RCC pharmacy, patients could buy it for just `18,700. 

“One patient had arrived at the pharmacy counter for Avastin but was turned down citing its unavailability. Though he demanded a prescription for the medicine in the special form meant for Karunya scheme, it couldn’t be allowed as the said scheme has been discontinued,” said a source with RCC. 
It is also learnt that the RCC authorities are not stocking costlier medicines at its pharmacy. 

“The free drug bank might be an exemption. But only categorised patients could buy such drugs. In the case of others, they have to buy the same from either the In-House Drug Bank or from Karunya Pharmacy. If the prescribed drug is not available there, they will have to buy it from private stores,” added the source. 

According to an RCC official, the three pharmacies (at OP, ward and chemotherapy wings) are facing drug shortage though it is not that severe. “There is a shortage of medicine. The pharmacies lack even some common medicines like Cremalax (a laxative used in the treatment of constipation), Becosules capsules, Voveran tablet (a non-steroidal drug which helps in reduction of pain, inflammation, joint pain, swelling and stiffness) and others,” said the official. 

RCC director Dr Rekha Nair had earlier stated that it had ensured alternative arrangements including local purchase of drugs for the pharmacy and allowing patients to buy medicines from the nearby In-House Drug Bank and Karunya Pharmacy without paying money. The amount would later be reimbursed by the RCC, she said.

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