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First marrow transplant unit by June

Cost of treatment for cancer and other diseases to come down drastically

The first bone marrow transplant unit of the country is expected to be launched at Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) by June next year, said Director of the hospital Brig Gen Md Mustafizur Rahman.

To be facilitated on the 10th floor of the under-construction DMCH-2, the unit will be able to bring down the transplant cost to Tk 5 lakh, whereas it takes about Tk 1 crore in the US, Tk 50 to 60 lakh in Singapore and Tk 40 to 50 lakh in India.

Bone marrow transplant has the potential to cure thalassaemia (major and minor), several types of bone cancer, and other non-malignant and non-cancerous diseases.

About 10 percent children of the country were suffering from thalassaemia and different types of blood cancers, said the DMCH director.

He said although the number of such patients is so huge, the unit would be able to treat only six patients at a time. “The idea is, once we have the expertise in the country the private sector will be encouraged to set up more similar units,” he added.

“Medical equipment worth Tk 19 crore have already been procured for the transplant unit,” said Rahman, adding that Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) was providing technical support for the programme.

Bimalangshu R Dey, a Bangladeshi doctor working in the US as an assistant professor of the Department of Medicine at MGH, was one of the key figures in arranging the deal between the Bangladesh government and MGH.

On the programme, Dey said, “For the first six months, the unit will only try the simpler methods [autologous stem cell transplant]. About 80 to 90 percent patients, who are born with thalassaemia major, can be fully cured if the transplant is done at the right time.”

The collaboration with MGH is mainly focused on the education and training of physicians, technologists and nurses, said Saiful Islam, additional director general of the Directorate of Health Services.

The training will go on for the next 10 months, he added.

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