A letter for inclusion of stem cell therapy in the government’s free health scheme — Rajiv Gandhi Jeevandayee Arogya Yojana (RGJAY) — was recently sent to Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan’s office for consideration.
The scheme, which provides free treatment to poor patients, has a total of 30 specialised treatments in 373 empaneled hospitals in the state. While it began in 2012 in eight districts, it was expanded to all the 36 districts in 2013.
Recently, medical practitioners have been demanding the inclusion of advanced treatments like cochlear implant in the scheme. Now, a neurosurgeon from city’s stem cell centre has requested the inclusion of stem cell therapy in the list.
Dr Alok Sharma from Neurogen Institute, who sent a letter to Chavan in August, said, “Not everyone can afford stem cell therapy. Seeing its wide range of applications, it must be included in the scheme so that treatment can be provided for free.”
Stem cell therapy has found its use in treatment of certain type of cancers, blood disorders, spinal injury and certain neurological disorders like muscle dystrophy.
The treatment, still in its nascent stage, requires over Rs 2 lakh in a private set-up for just one session of stem cell therapy in a patient’s body.
While a response to the proposal is awaited from the CM’s office, Meeta Lochan, former public health secretary, said, “At present, treatment costing up to Rs 1.5 lakh is included in RGJAY. For procedures beyond that amount, the insurance scheme will have to be updated, which is a policy decision. Once it is tabled before the health department, it will be discussed.”
According to her, cochlear transplant has been held up due to similar reasons of high procedural costs involved.
Chandu Kant, father of 27-year-old Ankur Kant who suffers from multiple dystrophy since childhood, said, “The treatment cost for such diseases is very high. We have spent lakhs over his treatment. If the government includes it in its free health scheme, it will benefit several patients who at present cannot gain access to the treatment.”