No free drugs for organ transplant done abroad: KL

PHOTO: No free drugs for organ transplant done abroad: KL

KUALA LUMPUR - Beginning next year, the government will stop prescribing free immuno-suppressive drugs to those who go overseas for organ transplants.

This is to curb organ trafficking overseas.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said those who still wanted to undergo organ transplant overseas must first seek the ministry's approval.

Without the approval, they would not be given the free medication, which costs between RM800 (S$325) and RM1,000 per patient per month.

Immuno-suppressants are powerful drugs that lower the body's normal immune response to prevent the rejection of transplanted organs and tissues.

"The government does not condone organ trafficking.

The move will discourage patients from getting organs commercially in foreign countries without the ministry's permission.

"There are many patients who go overseas for organ transplants at unregistered hospitals and sometimes, there are complications after surgery," he said after launching the National Organ Donation Awareness Week 2011 at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia's stadium yesterday.

Liow also said there were many hospitals in the country which had specialist doctors who had performed successful organ transplants and there was no reason for patients to go overseas, unless it was a special case.

On allegations by the Bang-ladesh government that a local hospital here was involved in organ trafficking, he said police were investigating the case.

Liow said the ministry was strict about organ donations and those interested in donating their organs would have to go through a committee chaired by the ministry's deputy director-general.

Liow said as of Sept 30, there were 14,037 on the waiting list for organs. He said he ministry would look at ways to increase awareness of organ donation to cope with the rising demand for the procedure.

Committee on Public Awareness for Organ Donation chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, who was also present, called for cooperation with the Road Transport Department to increase the number of organ donors in the country.

"There should be a column for those who apply for a driver's licence to also register as a donor. "

He said every year, nearly 6,000 people died in road accidents and if at least two per cent pledged their organs, it would make a difference.