New Delhi: Thousands of Indian patients wait for an inordinate amount of time for a blood stem cell transplant and face hurdles finding a genetically matching donor as there are few registered donors available in the country, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Wednesday.
"Thousands of patients suffering from Thalassemia and other blood-related disorders like leukemia have to wait long to find a genetically matching donor with fewer donors registered in Indian registry.
"As per experts, around 50,000 people having blood cancer and related diseases die in India every year while waiting for suitable stem cell donors," said Vardhan as he relaunched Asian Indian Donor Marrow Registry at AIIMS today.
Apart from the various government programmes, Vardhan called upon the NGOs to spread awareness and make this a national movement to increase the pool of donors.
"There are several superstitions and misconceptions associated with blood donation and organ donation which needs to be debunked. There is a need to spread awareness and NGOs should come forward for this," said Vardhan as he registered himself as a voluntary donor in the AIDMR by giving blood for the HLA test.
AIDMR was launched in 1994 in association with Dadhichi Deh Dan Samiti to improve Indian donors registry and at present has only 3925 donors registered in it.
On the occasion of World Organ Donation Day today, Vardhan urged people, especially the kin of brain dead patients, to come forward for the cause, to save the needy.
Vardhan also announced setting up of a state-of-the-art National organ and tissue donation and transplant organisation in Safdarjung hospital.
Dr N K Mehra, Dean Reseach and head of transplant Immunology at AIIMS said that only one out of ten Indians are able to find a genetically matching donor from the available International registry of 22.9 million donors and thus it is imperative that India has its own registry.
"It is difficult to find an HLA (Human leukocyte antigen) identical unrelated donor for Indians because Indian HLA genes are highly diverse and many of which are novel alleles and do not occur in caucasian population.
"We need 2.5 donors to cater to the needy ones. Currently HLA testing is very costly. We are also asking government to initiate some policy initiatives to bring down the cost so that we can include all ethnic groups in the registry," he said.
The current cost of HLA testing is Rs 4000.