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New Delhi : Union Health & Family Welfare Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan on August 18, 2020, inaugurated a Thalassemia Screening and Counselling Centre at Indian Red Cross Society’s National Headquarters (IRCS NHQs) Blood Bank here. Expressing his  happiness over the start of the Centre, Dr Vardhan lauded efforts of  Indian Red Cross. “Initiatives such as these will enable us in educating the common people on prevention of this disease,” he said.

Dr Vardhan stated that there are around 270 million Thalassemia patients in the world. India has the largest number of children with Thalassemia major in the world, about 1 to 1.5 lakh, and about 10,000 -15,000 children having Thalassemia major are born every year. The only cure available for such children is bone marrow transplantation (BMT). However, BMT is difficult and not affordable by the parents of all these children. Therefore, the mainstay of treatment is repeated blood transfusions followed by regular iron chelation therapy to remove the excessive iron overload consequent to the multiple blood transfusions, according to a PIB release

Dr Vardhan stated that this new initiative of IRCS will provide a golden opportunity to administer adequate therapy to those affected enabling them lead a better life and preventing the birth of children affected with hemoglobinopathies through carrier screening, genetic counselling, and prenatal diagnosis. “This programme will aid in prevention of birth of children affected with hemoglobinopathies through well planned screening programmes, information dissemination and awareness generation activities, and help avert the imminent threat of this genetic disorder turning into a major health problem,” he stated.

Haemoglobinopathies such as Thalassemia and sickle cell disease are inherited disorders of red blood cells and are preventable. These illnesses are chronic, life impairing and in some cases, life threatening and impose a heavy emotional and financial burden on families. In India, Thalassemia Major (TM) and the severe form of Thalassemia Intermedia (TI) constitute the major burden of disease. Both are commonly managed by regular lifelong blood transfusions and regular iron chelation.

These Thalassemia syndromes are caused by inheritance of abnormal (beta) Thalassemia genes from both parents or abnormal beta-Thalassemia gene from one parent and abnormal variant haemoglobin gene (HbE, HbD) from the other parent. R  K Jain, Secretary General, IRCS, and representatives of IRCS, Thalassemics India, and the health Ministry were also present on the occasion.