KINGSTON — The National Health Fund (NHF) is reporting an increase in demand for diabetes medication with the Government paying out close to $1 billion in drug subsidy in 2010.
"We have looked at our figures and when we look at 2004, we have increased from paying out subsidies of $16 million…and up to 2010 (we paid out) $940 million said NHF Wellness Programme Coordinator, Debbie Guinness-Brown.
She told JIS News that the money spent last year was to meet the needs of 90,000 beneficiaries up from 20,000 in 2004. “So we have seen a drastic increase in the demand for the use of diabetic drugs,” she said.
While it was not clear whether the increase was as a result of more persons being diagnosed with the condition, or an escalation in the numbers seeking public health support, Mrs. Guinness-Brown said there is need for more Jamaicans to adopt healthy lifestyle to prevent the condition.
This includes eating more healthy meals and exercising for at least 30 minutes every day.
More than 100 diabetes prescription drugs are covered by the NHF and the complete list can be found on the Fund’s website at www.nhf.org.jm; participating pharmacies, or by calling the NHF at 906-1106.
Persons can benefit once they are covered by NHF’s Individual Benefits card and the Jamaica Drugs for the Elderly Programme (JADEP).
“Under the NHF card, persons, who suffer from diabetes, can apply for that card once they have a TRN (Tax Registration Number)…so children as well as adults suffering from Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes can apply for that card and be assisted with their prescription items. Under JADEP, persons over 60 (also have) access to drugs but they pay a very minimal cost for those drugs,” Guinness-Brown informed.
The Diabetes Association of Jamaica (DAJ) is also encouraging regular physical activity as a means of preventing diabetes.
Executive Director of the Association, Owen Bernard, said that about eight per cent of Jamaicans have the chronic condition, with many of those affected being children.
"The young people are developing…Type 2 diabetes…because of their lifestyles, they are not as active as they used to be; people are more active with their fingers on computers and so they are not out there (playing),” he said.
Mr. Bernard commended the Ministry of Health for its role in promoting diabetes management and enhancing care through various initiatives including the 'Life for a Child' programme. Under the initiative, children and young people with diabetes mellitus, from birth to 25 years of age, can access insulin, syringes, blood glucose monitors, testing supplies as well as four A1C tests per year, free of cost.
Mr. Bernard further lauded the provision of diabetes medication at a subsidised cost through the NHF, noting that the Fund also has "an excellent campaign" in place to encourage people to "be active and get going".
Diabetes describes a range of conditions including diabetes mellitus Type 1 and diabetes mellitus Type 2, diabetes insipidus and gestational diabetes. These are all conditions, which affect how the pancreas (an organ in the digestive system) secretes insulin or how the body reacts to this hormone.
Depending on the type and severity, diabetes is controlled by dietary measures, weight loss, oral medication or injected or inhaled insulin. There is a wide range of short and long-term complications of diabetes including foot and eye problems and vascular diseases.
By Chris Patterson, JIS Reporter