Three mainland leukaemia patients in Hong Kong as part of a clinical trial for a revolutionary new drug say they may not be able to afford it after they go home. The three are among 33 patients taking the pill Gleevec in a manufacturer-sponsored trial that began in November at Queen Mary Hospital. Wong Kin-wa, a 29-year-old doctor, retired teacher Zhu Yi, 56, and university student Zhang Yanze, 21, will be given the drugs free until September next year. Gleevec has been hailed as a 'magic bullet' that targets only leukaemia cells while leaving healthy cells untouched. The drug, previously known as STI-571, is expected to be approved in Hong Kong this year. But the pill must be taken daily and costs at least $20,000 a month for each patient. Sufferers may have to take it for the rest of their lives. Gleevec was able to achieve remission in the 33 patients chosen after standard treatment failed. They showed no sign of leukaemia cells after 10 weeks of taking the drug. 'It is a miracle,' said Dr Wong, a paediatrician, 'but since we are not Hong Kong residents, we cannot expect much welfare from the Hong Kong Government, so we may not be able to enjoy the privilege [of getting the drug free].' The trio suffer from a form of blood-cell cancer called chronic myeloid leukaemia, which results in an excess of white blood cells in the bone marrow. They said they had no idea where they could get the money to pay for Gleevec. Dr Wong said a doctor earned an average of 2,000 yuan a month (HK$1,885) on the mainland. 'My mother is a retired doctor and she runs a clinic. My salary is just enough for a plane ticket [to Hong Kong]. My mother provides me with the rest,' she said. Mr Zhu, who gets 1,000 yuan on a teacher's pension, has to rely on his son, a company manager, and his daughter, a student in the United States. Ms Zhang's mother, Song Lili, who has accompanied her daughter and resigned from her job as a civil servant when Ms Zhang became ill last July, said they had no one to turn to. Ms Song said: 'There is no government department in the mainland that can help.' They are hoping the hospital in Hong Kong will continue their supply of free medicine. However, the Hospital Authority has not decided whether it will pay for the drug when it is approved for use in Hong Kong or whether patients will have to shoulder the cost. Under established policy, only SAR residents can enjoy free or subsided public medical services. Professor Kwong Yok-lam of the University of Hong Kong, who is leading the drug trial, said the makers of Gleevec had not specified what they would do with patients after the trial period. Professor Raymond Liang Hin-suen, who occupies the chair of haematology and oncology at the university's faculty of medicine, said 50 new chronic myeloid leukaemia cases were diagnosed each year, and the need for Gleevec was sure to rise.