Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan re-launched a 10-year-old Asian organ donor registry at AIIMS on Wednesday to mark the World Organ Donor Day. Speaking at the event, he said the registry would benefit thousands of Indian patients who wait for an inordinate amount of time for a blood stem cell transplant and face hurdles in finding a matching donor.
“Thousands of patients suffering from thalassemia and other blood-related disorders such as leukemia have to wait for a long time to find a genetically matching donor, since fewer donors are registered in the Indian registry. According to experts, around 50,000 people with blood cancer and related diseases die in India every year while waiting for suitable stem cell donors,” Harsh Vardhan said.
The minister called upon NGOs to spread awareness and make it a national movement to increase the pool of donors.
“There are several superstitions and misconceptions associated with blood donation and organ donation. Those need to be debunked. There is a need to spread awareness and NGOs should come forward for this,” he said.
The Asian donor registry was first launched in 1994 in association with Dadhichi Deh Dan Samiti. It has 3,925 donors registered with it.
Harsh Vardhan urged people, especially the kin of brain dead patients, to come forward for the cause of organ donation and save the needy. He also announced the setting up of a state-of-the-art national organ and tissue donation and transplant organisation in Safdarjung hospital.
Dr N K Mehra, Dean Research and head of Transplant Immunology at AIIMS, said only one of 10 Indians are able to find a genetically matching donor from the International registry of 22.9 million donors. So, he said, it was important for India to have its own registry.
“It is difficult to find an HLA (human leukocyte antigen) identical unrelated donor for Indians because Indian HLA genes are highly diverse. Many are novel alleles and do not occur in Caucasian population. We need 2.5 donors to cater to the needy ones. Currently HLA testing is very costly. We have also asked the government for policy initiatives to bring down the cost so that we can include all ethnic groups in the registry,” Dr Mehra said.