KABUL Allergy Centre (AAC) than at other labs. Some patients allege the diagnosis and treatment of allergies at this centre has become a roaring business.
Pajhwok has learnt that about 30 patients visit the centre daily. At least 25,000 patients have been treated at AAC since its opening, according to officials.
The centre diagnoses and treats different kinds of allergies that result from chronic cold, food, skin, eye, dust, chest, armpit, clothing, pet contact, vegetable, persistent cough and shortness of breath.
Allergy is a reaction of the immune system that happens when the immune system mistakenly identifies a substance that is harmless to the body as harmful and acts against it.
It causes symptoms to go away, such as shortness of breath and persistent cough, cold, watery eyes, itch body, peeling and redness of the skin, chronic sore throat, diarrhea and sneezing.
The Afghanistan Allergy Centre, which has an official operating licence, conducts tests of an allergy panel that is 56 percent higher than other allergy diagnosis and treatment centres.
Citizens’ complaints come as the Ministry of Public Health says activities of this centre have been stopped two times before due to overcharging.
AAC testing cost
Afghanistan Allergy Center test each (respiratory allergy + determination of allergens, food allergy + determination of allergens) and atopy allergy + determination of allergens) costs 5,000 afghanis.
However, similar examinations are done at other health centres for more than 2,200 afghanis.
Inhalant allergy tests: ACC tests respiratory allergy and determination of allergens (total IGE) for 5,000 afghanis but other centres charge around 2,220 afghanis.
Food allergy test: Food allergy test and total IGE tests are performed at AAC for 5,000 afghanis but these examinations are done at other centres for 2,220 afghanis.
Atopy allergy: This test is also conducted for 5,000 afghanis at ACC and the examination costs 2,220 afghanis at other centres.
ACC charges are 40 to 70 percent higher than other health centres in the field of vaccine administration.
AAC provides influenza vaccine for 1,000 afghanis, compared to 600 afghanis charged by other centres.
This vaccine sells for 100afs
AAC sells pneumococcal vaccine for 1,000 afghanis; but it is administered for 300 afghanis.
Vaccine costs 200 afghanis
AAC charges 500 afghanis for immunotherapy, but the original rate of an immunotherapy bottle is 400 afghanis.
One bottle is administered 12 times in as many weeks to a patient. AAC charges 500afs each time.
Some clients complain the AAC test costs higher are than other private hospitals, saying laboratory test and vaccine charges are 5,000 to 20,000 afghanis. Most patients cannot afford to arrange so much money, they argue.
Fazal Wardak, a client who recently brought a relative to AAC for allergy diagnosis and treatment, said he paid 300 afghanis in doctor fee, about 7,000 afghanis in first prescription and more than 5,000 in lab tests.
He added: “Initially, AAC staffers administer a vaccine, such as serum, which cost 6,200 afghanis.” In addition, he recalled, his patient was administered with other small vaccine doses every week for several months. Each vaccine cost 500 afghanis.
“I have seen no positive impact of these vaccines; instead they had a negative effect on our patient with each passing day. We noted our patient was getting fat because of hormones, which made him sick,” he explained.
Suraya, a first-year student at the faculty of Public Administration and Policy at Nangarhar University, said a patient visiting AAC has to pay 300afs in doctor’s fee, 4,500afs in laboratory tests and 5,500afs on vaccine cost.
“I have been vaccinated for six times. Up until now, I have not felt any particular change,” she said, pointing to the inefficacy of vaccines.
Mustafa Shahir, a resident of Kabul, said about a month ago he developed an itch and then a skin rash after eating melon. Subsequently, he visited AAC in Kart-i-Parwan for diagnosis and treatment.
He paid 300 afghanis as doctor fee before he was referred to lab by the doctor. He was then asked to pay 8,500 afghanis for examinations.
“When they demanded this amount, I asked whether it is only laboratory charges or the allergy vaccine is included. They replied this is only the lab examination fee and each vaccine shot has its own price.”
Shahir said when he heard that and left hospital, he bought a strip of AVIL tablets, which cost 10 afghanis. He believed the 300afs paid in doctor’s fee had gone down the drain.
Najiba Sarwari, a patient at AAC with respiratory issues, also told Pajhwok she had paid 300 afghanis in doctor’s fee, 6,300 afghanis in a laboratory test besides purchasing medicines worth 5,000afs. She is currently paying 500afs for vaccine every week — 12 shots that would cost her 6,000 afghanis.
She paid 15,000 afghanis, including doctor’s fee, medicine purchase and vaccination administration within a month and a half. “I have so far received seven shots of vaccine and five are still left. At the moment, my condition is stable.”
Mohammad Alam, an allergy patient who visited the Arian Sina Allergy Centre, said he had met doctors in Tajikistan, Germany, London and Russia over the past 18 years, but his problem did not go away. He finally visited this centre in the hope that its treatment would yield effective results.
Without naming any health centre, Alam said he had gone to one allergy treatment centre in Kabul and paid 7,000 afghanis for a medical examination but his treatment did him no good.
“I visited a doctor, who referred me to a laboratory for tests. I thought the Afghanistan Allergy Centre would charge me reasonably, but it demanded 4,500 afghanis. I ignored that and came here and paid 3,200 afghanis.”
The patient hit out at high charges of laboratory tests for allergies, saying a vast majority of Afghans were poor and could not afford to pay so much money.
Visitors charged high charges of lab tests, vaccine use and ineffective treatment at the centre were not monitored. Diagnosis and treatment of allergies at the Afghanistan Allergy Centre has become a flourishing business, they claim.
Objection from former laboratory technician of Afghanistan Allergic Centre (AAC)
Hassamuddin, a former laboratory technician at the AAC, on his Facebook page wrote that every patient is asked about his/her job at the ACC. “If a patient has a decent job with high salary he/she is asked for three tests and the cost of every test is 7,500 afs which is difficult for a patient to pay.”
Referring to the administration of same laboratory test for all patients, he said the doctor did not stop by charging extra test with high price but the patients were asked for another 7,600afs for administration of three allergy vaccination.
He said the vaccine caused growth of female hormones in male and male hormones in females and in some cases it caused infertility in women.
According to Hassamuddin, the price of one bottle immunotherapy is 500 afs but the AAC sold the vaccine at 5,000 afs to patients.
He added the price of vaccine influenza is 100afs in the market and the price of one bottle of vaccine Pneumococcal is 100 afs but each was sold to patients at 1,000 afs.
Views of allergy vaccine importers
The owner of one of the allergy vaccine importing companies, who wished not to be named, told Pajhwok Afghan News the real price of influenza, pneumococcal was 30 afs to 50 afs but some dishonest people sold it for 500afs to 1,000 afs.
He added: “One bottle of immunotherapy that includes 12 dozes for 12 weeks costs 400 afs but some physicians received 500afs from patients for one doze.” The price of one bottle of influenza vaccine is 100afs which is sold by some doctors for 1,000afs.
The company owner said price of one bottle of Pneumococcal Vaccine was 200afs with four dozes and administered to patients four times.
Response from AAC
Dr. Nasrullah Aresh Haidryan, head of AAC, said that diagnosing and treatment of allergy related health problems was a new chapter in Afghanistan and patients underwent laboratory tests based on requirement.
He said the price of laboratory tests ranged from 5,000 to 15,000 afs and added: “Sometimes laboratory tests are conducted at the request of patients. We recommend single test for allergy but patients wants three types allergy tests and thus the price of tests soars.”
Referring to the notion that allergy test of a patient costs 5,000 afs provided that he/she is not diagnosed with multiple allergies, he said: “For instance if a patient is tested for respiratory allergy, we prescribe him allergy test that costs 3,000 afs and 2,000 afs are deducted for IG level, but if the same patient has allergy problem with his digest system and demands a second test, then it costs 10,000 afs.”
According to a source, the available technology in this centre is modern and the price of one machine is around $14,000.
Saadat Musadiq, director of the AAC, said allergy in this centre was treated on international standards —- Immunotherapy and Desensitization.
Musadiq rejected charging extra amount on patients and said there was no reality in such claims. He added every individual having such claims should prove them.
But Dr. Mohammad Haleem Ayan, head of the Aryan Sena Allergy Centre, said they charged patients for allergy test in according to the laws of the country’s health sector.
He said the Aryan Sena Allergy Centre functioned under the India National Allergy Centre and used Korean technology for diagnosing 190 types of allergies.
Dr. Aryan said diagnosing materials and kits were purchased for the laboratory at a cost of $250 which was divided on 10 patients equally with a 15 percent profit to the lab.
On the basis of the above formula, the diagnosing of respiratory allergy+ allergen level, food allergy+ allergen level, utopia allergy+ allergen level each costs more than 2,200afs.
Arian said their center has determined the cost of laboratory tests according to the law and that some other centers charged more than 5,000 afs for a laboratory test for allergies.
He said diet played 70 roles in rehabilitation of allergy patients, drugs 20 percent and vaccine 20 percent. Due the fact that the economic condition of most of patients was poor, so this centre often recommended diet to the patients.
Nemours complaints have been published in social media regarding high charges on an allergy test at the AAC situated in the Lab-e-Jar locality. Pajhwok Afghan News also strived to reach out to the concerned persons at the AAC but no information regarding the price and administration of vaccine was provided.
Physicians views regarding side effects of vaccines.
Dr. Baz Mohammad Shirzad while referring to the side effects of these vaccines, said the reaction of allergic vaccine after its administration in human body was similar to the reaction of other drugs and vaccines, leading to redness of the spot where the vaccine was administrated. It caused mild fever and sometimes shock
.He said: “Studies show that men have high levels of male hormone — testosterone in their blood or body shows a very weak immune response to these vaccines, and women have a better immune response than men.”
He added study also showed men with low levels of testosterone hormone showed similar immune response to women but the notion that vaccine administration caused growth of male hormone in female and female hormone in male could not be proved.
Oversight Department on implementation of health laws
Ahmad Khalid Ahadi, head of Oversight Department on implementation of heath laws, said charging extra money on vaccination and lab test was a crime, adding that every health centre charging extra amount were fined 50 afghani for every extra afghani.
He said the fee of ordinary doctor was 150 afs, of a specialist 200 afs and of a professor 300 afs. About overcharging by the AAC, he said the medical facility has been warned against extra-charging.