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Black fungus: Shortage of drug spells death knell for patients in Telangana

A day after the Director of Medical Education played down fears of the increasing cases of Mucormycosis, the Health Department officially declared it as an epidemic.

Published: 21st May 2021 10:20 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st May 2021 10:20 AM   |  A+A-

Family members attend to a patient infected by black fungus at the Government ENT Hospital in Hyderabad.

Family members attend to a patient infected by black fungus at the Government ENT Hospital in Hyderabad. (Photo | Vinay Madapu)

Express News Service

HYDERABAD: “When we left Hyderabad, the doctor gave us one week for her life as the infection had spread to the brain. Today is the fifth day. Both her eyes are shut due to the infection, and her mouth is not opening. She has close to no urine output and hasn’t had food or water for the past three days. We give her milk and water in a spoon every hour. It is like she is in a state of coma. May no one else face the issues we did - no medicines, no hospitals, no help,” said Mubeen M from Nizamabad, whose 22-year-old sister Asifya, diagnosed with black fungus, was shunted between nearly eight hospitals before being told it was too late to intervene.

Like Asifya, many Mucormycosis patients who fail to get timely help are dying a painful death, with their organs shutting off one by one. Owing to low allocation from the Central government, there is an acute scarcity of medicines used to treat Mucormycosis in the State. Even IT Minister KT Rama Rao’s office, which is providing relief to hundreds of people by using social media, is unable to provide medicines for more than one day.

An average patient needs up to 10-20 days of treatment depending on the intensity of the condition, and may require up to 60 vials of the medicine, but most patients are unable to get the required numbers.

“It has been two days since Minister Rama Rao replied and offered to help a farmer from Nizamabad with Amphotericin B, the drug of choice to cure the infection. But the Minister’s office could only provide four vials, while the patient has been told to take 60 vials.

“With no other choice left, they have applied via the new system and are waiting. They have been discharged from the hospital and have left for their village,” said Sreeharsha Thanneru from Rythu Swarajya Vedika, who has been helping citizens from rural Telangana access healthcare.

The shortage is on account of the Central government allotting just 1,050 doses of Amphotericin B to Telangana up to May 31. This will roughly cater to 17 patients if each of them are to be given the entire dosage of 60 vials, making this allocation almost negligible.In fact, a day after the government launched an email allotment system for the drug, several patients who applied for the same are still awaiting a reply from the Director of Medical Education.

“There has been a confusion in how to apply for the drug. Initially, they said the mail must be sent to the DME, attaching the prescription and patient’s details. After that, they released a form which had to be signed by the treating doctor and emailed to the DME’s office by the hospital. The fungus is very aggressive and patients continue to be critical, but the process to obtain the medicine is painfully slow,” said a family member of an affected patient who was admitted to a hospital in Banjara Hills.

Mucormycosis declared an epidemic in Telangana

A day after the Director of Medical Education (DME) played down fears of the increasing cases of Mucormycosis, the Health Department officially declared it as an epidemic.

According to a notification issued by the Director of Public Health and Family Welfare, it is a notifiable disease under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897. The number of cases of the infection have been skyrocketing in Telangana.

As part of the notification, all government and private health facilities will have to report suspected and confirmed cases to the Health Department every day. The screening, diagnosis and management of Mucormycosis will have to be uniform and in compliance with MOHFW and ICMR guidelines.



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