India, with more than a billion population, has a huge burden of blood and cancer disorders many of which can be cured only by hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). More than 1500 transplants have been done till 2005 over a 20 year period in about 10 centers out of which 880 have been allogeneic HSCT and all have been from matched related donors (MRD).Unrelated HSCT is the only option for the patients without a MRD. It is almost impossible to find an unrelated matched donor in India due to ethnic diversity and lack of unrelated donor registries. Some public cord blood banks have been set up in India. So finding a suitable cord blood unit within India is possible. Unrelated Cord Blood Transplant (UCBT) is the only feasible option for patients who need to undergo unrelated HSCT in India but lack of experience and huge costs are perceived barriers. Data from USA showed mean cost of graft for pediatric UCBT was $58,910 and mean cost per day survived in first 100 days (excluding graft cost) was $4522 ((Majhail NS et al. Pediatr Blood Cancer 2010;54:138–143). The costs of UCBT among children in India have not been described previously.
We calculated the costs of UCBT within the first 100-days among four children who received UCBT at Sir Ganga Ram hospital from April 2008 to Dec 2010. We also analyzed costs of transplantation in relation to patient age, weight, single vs. double cord, conditioning, Graft vs. Host Disease (GVHD) and mean duration of stay before day 100.
The 100-day probability of overall survival was 100%. The mean cost per day survived (excluding costs of graft acquisition) was $402 (range $360-460)) for UCBT recipients. Average total cost of each UCBT was $43500 (Range $32000-52000). Average duration of stay in hospital in first 100 days was 89 days (range 75–100). All grafts were procured from a public cord bank in India. Average cost of graft per cord unit was $5000. Diagnosis was thalassemia major-2, Familial Hemophagocytic Lympho Histiocytosis (HLH)-1 and AML-1. Lowest cost was for AML ($32000) and highest was for Pesaro class III thalassemia major ($52000). Mean age was 2.75 years (range 1–5 year). Mean weight was 12.25 kg (range 10–16 kg). Mean cell dose infused was 7 × 107 nucleated cells/kg weight of recipient (range 3–10 × 107nucleated cells/kg). Conditioning was Busulfan and Cyclophosphamide (BuCY) and Rabbit Anti-Thymoglobulin (ATG) for two patients (1 Thalassemia, 1 AML) costing $1500 per patient, Fludarabine & Melphalan and Campath for HLH costing $2500 and Treosulfan, Thiotepa, Fludarabine and ATG for class III thalassemia costing $7500. Mean cost per day for single cord was $385 and for double cord UCBT was $420. One patient rejected the graft. Three engrafted at median of 32 days (range 28 –39 days). GVHD was seen in two patients (both with double cord). CMV reactivation was seen in all cases. Invasive aspergillosis was seen in one patient who had thalassemia and it lead to highest expenditure. Campath based conditioning was associated with maximum hospital stay in child with HLH. All had Lansky score >90 pre-transplant No one needed dialysis, mechanical ventilation or hepatic veno-occlusive disease.
Total cost of UCBT in India is less than the cost of the UCBT graft in USA and mean cost per day in India is almost one tenth of cost per day in USA. Low cost of UCBT in India would make this treatment feasible for many more patients who need to undergo unrelated HSCT.
No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.