LAHORE -  Punjab government after final approval from the Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sahrif , is buckled up to launch “The Punjab CML Project” in collaboration with M/s Novartis Pharma Pakistan Limited, under Corporate Social Responsibility initiative for poor cancer patients, TheNation has learnt.

Sources in the Punjab government say that after the signing of MoU between the Swiss company Novartis and the Punjab government, patients suffering from Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia (CML) and Gastro-intestinal Stromal Tumour (GST) will be the major beneficiary.

The purpose is to provide sustainable access immediately to patients who are on oral maintenance therapy throughout their life, said the source.

As per documents available with this paper, the terms of reference (ToRs) include that the CML Punjab Project shall be executed under the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the Health Department and Novartis Pharma Pakistan Limited. The Project shall be initiated at four Teaching Hospitals functioning under the Punjab Health Department, namely, Jinnah Hospital Lahore, Allied Hospital Faisalabad, Nishtar Hospital Multan and Holy Family Hospital Rawalpindi. Initially, the project shall be for two years, extendable for another three years, the project shall be started subject to the release of funds amounting to Rs 315 Million for the Fiscal Year 2013-14 and 2014-15 respectively. The funds released by the Finance Department shall be placed in the SDA Allama lqbal Medical College, Jinnah Hospital Lahore Principal for procurement of medicines as per demand of the sub-centres. The main Centre of Excellence shall be housed at Jinnah Hospital Lahore with sub-centres at Allied Hospital, Faisalabad, Nishtar Hospital Multan and Holy Family Hospital Rawalpindi.

The office facility shall be the responsibility of the concerned hospital administration, while provision of all necessary equipment in the offices, shall be the responsibility of Novartis Pharma Pakistan Limited.

Moreover, the Project shall be supervised by the Supervisory Committee notified by the government and a yearly audit shall be carried out by an External Auditor, appointed by the Novartis Pharma Pakistan Limited in consultation with the Punjab Health Department.

A senior officer of the Health department told this scribe that as the Punjab Chief Minister had announced setting up a cancer hospital in the province and to provide land and machinery for it.

As the CM wanted free provision of medicines to cancer patients while Punjab government was willing to spend Rs1.5 billion for the purpose, he said.

Quoting the CM, cancer patients and their families had to suffer a lot, the PMLN provincial government made its best efforts to ensure that no deserving cancer patient was deprived of medicines due to poverty.

Commenting on the cooperation between the Punjab government and Novartis, the officer said, the agonies of cancer patients and their families will be reduced adding the Swiss drugmaker Novartis, had been playing a key role in the neigbbouring country's healthcare sector as well.