In response to the public outrage on social media over the absence of the cancer medication, Mercaptopurine, sold under the brand name Purinethol, authorities moved forward to supply the Sohag Cancer Institute with the much needed medication, while other institutes are still waiting.
Mercaptopurine is an immunosuppressive medication used to treat leukaemia patients.
“I can’t give you an exact number, because Egypt is a country that doesn’t work with numbers. But I can assure you that in the past few days two children have died in both Tanta and Mansoura cancer institutes,” the head of the Egyptian Centre for the Right to Medication, Dr Mahmoud Fouad, told Daily News Egypt.
A hashtag campaign started a few days ago calling for public empathy to rescue children in need of Purinethol; however, the medicine is not confined to children alone, but it is needed by all leukaemia patients. “We focused on children to attract people’s attention so we can reach the authorities,” Fouad clarified.
Purinethol is not the only cancer medication in short supply. Three chemotherapy drugs over the past four months have been gradually disappearing from Egyptian pharmacies. Medications like Purinethol, Endoxan and Holoxan, which are both produced by another corporation, have also seen their stocks disappear from the market.
“We are facing a real problem in supplying cancer medicines. A problem that will extend until next April, as we expect the prices to change as the exchange rate to stabilises,” Fouad predicted.
There are around 36,000 leukaemia patients in four major cancer institutes in Assiut, Tanta, Mansoura, and Sohag, according to Fouad.