Thousands of kala azar patients in Bihar, most of whom are from impoverished backgrounds; are battling for their lives, since no drugs are not available in state hospitals for the last several months, officials on Wednesday said.
Mantu Paswan, father of a patient admitted at a government hospital in Muzaffarpur district, said that doctors treating his son categorically told him that they could comment on his condition after his health deteriorated because the hospital failed to provide him with medicine.
"Doctors told us to pray for his recovery because there were no drugs for treatment," Paswan, a poor rickshawallah, who works hard to support a family of seven in Patna, said. He is not alone -- there are hundreds like him in villages across Bihar.
Last month, the State government had admitted that there was limited stock of such drugs. None other than principal health secretary Amarjeet Sinha had then admitted that the government had just a month's supply of kala azar drugs.
The State government does not have stock of medicines such as Miltefosine and Amphotericin B that are given to patients in the out-patient department, an official said. But officials in the health department told rediff.com on Wednesday that no such drugs were available across government hospitals in the state.
"It is a fact that there are no kala azar drugs for proper treatment of patients," a health official said.
According to him, critical patients are not getting medicines at medical colleges and district-level hospitals because of the scarcity.
Bihar Health minister Ashwini Kumar Chaubey has repeatedly blamed the Union government for shortage of these drugs. "We have made repeated requests to the Centre to allow us to buy the drugs. But no action has been taken until now," Choubey said.
"The Centre makes these drugs available to states as a part of the national health initiative. No state has been authorised by the Centre to buy these drugs on its own. As a result, we have not had such drugs for the last six months," Choubey said.
According to officials, the State government's move is expected to benefit over 23,000 kala azar patients in 31 of the state's 38 districts.
Kala azar, a disease transmitted by sandfly, killed 74 people in the state last year. Over 750 people have died of the disease in the past five years.
Kala azar, medically called visceral leishmaniasis, is known as the poor man's disease because it affects the poorest. It is a vector-borne disease and is characterised by fever, weight loss, swelling of spleen and liver and anemia that could lead to cardiovascular complications.
The worst kala azar-hit areas of Bihar are the northern districts of Vaishali, Muzaffarpur, Sitamarhi, Sheohar and East and West Champaran. Around 90 per cent of the world's kala azar cases are found in India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sudan.