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Volume 929: debated on Monday 28 March 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a statement on the provision being made for research into and treatment of thalassaemia; and whether it is his policy to curtail expenditure on this disease.

I have been asked to reply.I am informed by the Medical Research Council that thalassaemia, formerly a rare disease in this country, is putting an increasingly heavy load on the National Health Service because of its high prevalence in the immigrant population, especially from Mediterranean countries. The Council, therefore, considers it important that research directed towards a better understanding of the disease and towards improved methods of treatment should be actively pursued.The Council has set up a study group to consider trials of methods of treatment under the chairmanship of Professor D. J. Weatherall of the University of Oxford, who, with long-term support from the Council, is carrying out research into the basic mechanisms of the disease and possible therapeutic approaches to its management. The Council has also awarded grants to University College Hospital for an investigation of the clinical value of a method to reduce transfusional iron overload in thalassaemia and to develop a method for diagnosing antenatally the presence of B-thalassaemia major and for cross-checking the relevant findings after delivery. Other studies on the disease are being carried out with Council support at the Royal Beatson Memorial Hospital, Glasgow, and an investigation of a particular type of thalassaemia found in Asian immigrants is being pursued at the Council's Clinical Research Centre, Northwick Park.The Council is not planning to reduce its general level of support for research in the field.