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The first case of thalassaemia, described in a non-Mediterranean person, was from India. Subsequently, cases of thalassaemia were documented in all parts of India. Centres for care of thalassaemics were started in the mid-1970s in Mumbai and Delhi, and then in other cities. The parent’s associations, with the help of International Thalassemia Federation, greatly helped in improving the care of thalassaemics. Obtaining blood for transfusion was difficult, but the Indian Red Cross Society and the parent’s associations played a crucial role in arranging voluntary donations of blood. Chelation with deferoxamine was used sparingly due to the high cost. The Indian physicians conducted trials with deferiprone, and the drug was first approved and marketed in India. Deferasirox is also now being administered. Studies of physical and pubertal growth documented significant retardation, suggesting that generally patients receive inadequate chelation and transfusions. Bone marrow transplantation is available at a number of centres, and cord blood stem cell storage facilities have been established. Information about mutations in different parts of India is available, and ThalInd, an Indian database has been set up. There is a need to set up preimplantation genetic diagnosis and non-invasive prenatal diagnosis. It is argued that too much emphasis should not be placed on premarital screening. The focus should be on screening pregnant women to yield immediate results in reducing the burden of this disorder. Care of thalassaemia has been included in the 12th 5-year Plan of the Government of India. Many States now provide blood transfusions and chelation free of cost. Although inadequacies in care of thalassaemia remain, but the outlook is bright, and the stage is set for initiating a control programme in the high risk States.


Article Category:  Thalassemia