Dischem to order crucial cancer drugs

Provincial Hospital haematology department head Dr Neil Littleton Picture: BRIAN WITBOOI
Provincial Hospital haematology department head Dr Neil Littleton

Dischem has stepped in to order lifesaving medication which two Port Elizabeth cancer patients desperately need.

This is after the company learnt that the Eastern Cape Department of Health was refusing to order the drug, which had been offered by the manufacturer free of charge.

Dischem Group executive manager Tanya Ponter said the company was more than happy to assist.

“Dr Neil Littleton [Provincial Hospital haematology department head], who consults private patients at GVI Oncology in Port Elizabeth, made a request to our on-site pharmacy for support in helping to acquire the drugs via Dischem Oncology.

“We have considerable investment in oncology and support our oncologists and specialists who make use of our services in any way we can,” she said.

Ponter said they would order the required but unregistered chemotherapy drugs via their wholesale and oncology distribution channels as soon as they received the Medicines Control Council authorisation.

Earlier this year, an Eastern Cape patient died while waiting for the treatment and two others, Louis Sadovsky, 61, and Phathekile Thambo, 63, were refused specialist drugs.

The drugs are available free to patients through donations programmes.

The decision not to order the medication was taken by the department’s Provincial Treatment Committee, which decided it would no longer approve the use of the drug to treat leukaemia because it was only registered with the Medicines Control Council for use as a multiple sclerosis drug.

The drug is, however, used to treat leukaemia internationally as well as in other parts of South Africa.

Sadovsky, who suffers from T-cell chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, will be receiving a free donated chemotherapy drug known as Brentaximab, which normally costs R500 000 per cycle.

Tambo will receive Alemtuzumab, at a cost of R160 000 per course of chemotherapy, also free.

Tambo said he was very happy about Dischem’s intervention.

“I said I would be happy if anybody could order my medicine,” he said.

Sadovsky was not available for comment. Both men have been waiting since December for the drugs.

Cole Cameron, from the Igazi Foundation, said they were delighted and humbled by Dischem’s offer of assistance.

Eastern Cape Department of Health spokesman Siyanda Manana declined to comment.

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