Lupus Foundation welcomes $340 million Government subsidy
Prime Minister Andrew Holness
The Lupus Foundation of Jamaica has welcomed the Government’s decision to subsidise medication for persons living with the disease, which is to come at a cost of $340 million annually.
President of the foundation, Dr Desirée Tulloch-Reid, said with kidney complications, it can cost a patient with lupus up to $120,000 each month for medication, and the Government’s decision shows compassion.
“We applaud this measure as an act of compassion and an indication that there is greater awareness of the illness and persons it affects,” she told JIS.
Tulloch-Reid noted that the expense to treat the disease is distressing to many persons, and the organisation would like all the drugs used for the illness to be on the subsidised list.
She said while the disease affects predominately young women, both genders can be affected by the illness, including children.
“So the need to ensure that persons affected have access to affordable treatment is really welcomed, and we thank the Government for it,” Tulloch-Reid said.
During his contribution to the 2019-2020 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives on March 19, Prime Minster Andrew Holness disclosed that starting April 30, lupus will be added to the list of illnesses that are covered by the National Health Fund (NHF).
“The expense sometimes causes patients to use other medications which can increase the risk of a flare-up. For a lupus patient, this could mean kidney failure, heart damage, lung damage, seizures, stroke, severe pain, fever, being hospitalised for months, and even death,” the prime minister said.
He told the House that after dialogue with a family member of a 23-year-old university law student who is beset by the disease, he was moved to ensure that medication can be reasonable for the estimated 6,000 persons who are living with the illness locally.
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks normal, healthy tissue. This results in symptoms such as inflammation, swelling and damage to joints, skin, kidneys, blood, the heart and the lungs.