As countries mark World Sickle Cell Awareness Day, observed annually on June 19, the National Health Fund (NHF) is emphasising its support for people living with sickle cell disease (SCD).
From June 13-17, the NHF partnered with the Sickle Cell Unit, Caribbean Institute for Health Research (CAIHR), UWI to raise awareness about the disease and encourage people living with the condition to apply for the NHFCard.
Interim Director at the Sickle Cell Unit, CAIHR Dr Nicki Chin, says support from the NHF and other organisations goes a long way in helping them provide medical and life support to their patients.
“The Sickle Cell Unit helps with the healthcare management of persons with Sickle Cell Disease. Unfortunately, a number of our patients are unable to afford what they need. The NHF then is integral in providing access to pharmaceuticals that improve their quality of life,” Dr Chin added.
Sickle Cell Disease is one of the 17 conditions covered by the NHFCard Programme, and, in the last financial year, the NHF paid $4.5 million in claims for drugs used to treat the condition. Enrolled beneficiaries presently receive subsidies on 32 drug items used to treat the condition.
Last year NHF added seven items – Diosmin and Hesperidin Tablets, Ketanserin Gel, Zinc Hyaluronate Gel, Amoxicillin & Clavulanic acid, Azithromycin, Folic Acid, and Mupirocin Ointment.
There are presently 2,440 sickle cell beneficiaries of the NHFCard programme – 1,401 females and 1,039 males – with 1,897 (78 per cent) being 19 years and older.
“Sickle cell disease, like any other lifelong illness, comes with a great deal of out-of-pocket expenses. As an organisation with a goal of reducing the financial burden of health care for Jamaican residents living with chronic diseases, we are serious about our responsibility to offer support to those who are affected by this genetic condition. The NHF’s contribution helps to ease the financial strain on patients and positively impacts their quality of life,” Chief Executive Officer Everton Anderson.
Of note, patients who are seen at the Sickle Cell Unit, UWI, and receive prescriptions there may also visit the NHF’s Drug Serv pharmacies across the island to access their medications on the Government’s Vital Essential and Necessary list free of charge.
Fifteen per cent of Jamaicans are carriers of the SCD gene. One in every 150 persons has the disease, and one in every 10 persons has the trait, thus making sickle cell disease a common genetic disorder in Jamaica.