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Monday, 28 October, 2002, 00:52 GMT
Leukaemia deaths slashed in India
Caclutta
Healthcare has improved greatly in India
Doctors in India have dramatically cut deaths from childhood leukaemia after introducing standardised treatment for patients.

Latest figures show that survival rates for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (All) have jumped from just 25% 15 years ago to almost 60% today.

Doctors said the improvements were down to changes in the way patients diagnosed with the disease were treated.


We are quite happy that in 15 years we have brought our results right up from 25% to 60%

Dr Suresh Advani
In recent years, hospitals across the country have adopted uniform procedures for treating patients with All.

The procedures or protocol were drawn up by doctors from some of India's major cancer centres and experts from the United States.

Standard treatment

They spell out precisely how patients should be treated. These include information on what drugs should be administered, what time of day they should be given, what side-effects they may trigger, and how these side-effects should be treated.

Dr Suresh Advani, chief oncologist at the Jaslok Hospital in Mumbai hailed the results.

"We have been treating acute lymphoblastic leukaemia for the past 30 years.

"Before the 1980s our results were not very good. Long term survival rates were just 25%," he said.

"Today, our long term survival rates are almost 60%. We are quite happy that in 15 years we have brought our results right up from 25% to 60%."

Nationwide

The protocol is now being used by doctors throughout India.

"Many trainees who were working with us have gone and settled down in different parts of India and they are able to apply the same treatment in their areas," said Dr Advani. "It has become an all-India protocol today."


The whole treatment is relatively cheap compared to western countries

Dr Suresh Advani
The protocol is also cost-effective and, according to doctors, provides better value for money than treatments in Western countries.

"Most of these drugs we use are now available in the generic form. There are a lot of pharmaceutical companies producing these drugs.

"There is competition and the prices of these drugs have come down dramatically compared to 10 or 15 years ago.

"The whole treatment is relatively cheap compared to western countries. Although it is costly for an average Indian person, it is definitely cheaper compared to the cost in western countries."

The success of the scheme comes as rates of All increase across the country. Traditionally, India has had low incidence of the diseases but in recent years the number of new cases has increased.

Dr Advani believes the rise is linked ironically to improvements in healthcare.

"In the cities at least, we are seeing a changing pattern. The incidence is becoming higher and higher and may approach figures for western developed countries.

"As you improve your general health structure the incidence of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia increases.

"It seems that with the general improvement in health services, children don't die from other routine infections and therefore some of these children develop acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

"In other words, it is a sign of the general health improvement in society."

This story is featured in the radio programme Health Matters on the BBC World Service.

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04 Aug 00 | Health
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