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Cancer patients in Lahore protest denial of free drugs

Cancer patients in Lahore protest denial of free drugs

LAHORE: Scores of cancer patients, including elderly people and women, assisted by their attendants, on Wednesday staged a sit-in outside the Punjab Assembly after the government stopped issuing free medicines to them through the state-run hospitals of the city.

Many of the patients participating in the protest suffering from life-threatening ailment were unable to purchase medicines from the market because of the high prices and unavailability.

The situation worsened when the Mayo and Jinnah hospitals stopped giving cancer medicines to the registered patients a couple of months back.

An official said hundreds of patients were registered under a free medicine programme launched during the the Pakistan Muslim League (N) government in Punjab.

He said the then chief minister Shahbaz Sharif had specially allocated budget for the two major teaching hospitals of the provincial capital housing cancer wards to provide free of cost treatment to the patients.

Since the cancer medicines were not easily available in the market, the shops having private stocks indulged in black marketing, charging higher prices for these drugs. Thus, for the poor patients the only hope for survival was the two public sector hospitals that would provided them free medicine every month.

Talking to the media, the patients regretted that stoppage of medicines supply by the two hospital had made their life miserable.

They said that life of many poor patients was in danger as they could not get their medicines last month.

A young man said his father was unable to move even on the bed because of the severity of the disease which was advancing with every passing day after the government stopped giving him medicines. He said his father was registered as a patient of the cancer unit of the Jinnah Hospital Lahore and had been getting free drugs every month.

The Jinnah Hospital administration said the Punjab government had rolled back the programme under which free medicines were being provided to the patients citing shortage of funds.

The protesting patients feared that if the free medicines supply was not restored, many of them might die in coming weeks.

They blocked The Mall for some time and raised slogans against the Punjab government, holding it primarily responsible for what they called ‘brutality’ towards the poor cancer patients.

Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2019

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