Form panel to check veracity of medical authorities’ claim, says SC

Administration of drug for spinal muscular atrophy to six-month-old patient

The Kerala High Court on Wednesday directed the State government to constitute a committee consisting of six doctors to look into the veracity of the stand that the drug for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) could not be administered to a child undergoing treatment for the illness at the Kozhikode Medical College Hospital, as the patient is on ventilator.

Justice P.B. Suresh Kumar passed the order on a writ petition filed by Ariff from Perithalmanna seeking a directive to the government to provide free treatment to his six-month-old son and to import and administer the drug, Onasemnogene Abeparvovec (Zolgensma). The petitioner said since the drug was prohibitively expensive, he could not procure it.

The government pleader submitted that the criterion prescribed for the administration of the drug was that the patient should be off the ventilator for more than 16 hours. In fact, the child of the petitioner had been on a ventilator for the last two months. Though the hospital authorities tried to wean off the child from the ventilator, they could not do so. Therefore, even if the drug was procured, it could not be administered to the child.

The court felt that since the drug was expensive, a committee of expert doctors shall be constituted to form an opinion as to the correctness of the stand of the hospital authorities.

When the petition came up for hearing, the government pleader pointed out that a committee could be constituted consisting of Dr. Sreekumar, Superintendent, Institute of Mother and Child Health (IMCH) Kozhikode; Dr. Shankar, genetic expert, department of paediatrics, Government Medical College, Thiruvananthapuram; Dr. Ajithkumar V.T., head of the department of paediatrics, IMCH, Kozhikode; Dr. Mary Ipe, professor of paediatric neurology, Government Medical College, Thiruvananthapuram; Dr. Santhini, expert in emergency care, Government Medical College, Kozhikode, and Dr. Jayakrishnan, expert in intensive care, IMCH, for the purpose.

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