herald

Tuesday 17 October 2017

'Give us free asthma medicine' plea to Leo

Leo Varadkar. Photo: Arthur Carron/Collins
Leo Varadkar. Photo: Arthur Carron/Collins

Asthma sufferers want the new Health Minister Leo 
Varadkar to fund free medicines for the country's 470,000 sufferers.

They say 40pc of patients cannot afford the high cost of their prescribed medicines and they are putting themselves at higher risk of an asthma attack by not buying the medication.

According to the Asthma Society: "More than one person each week dies of asthma in Ireland, but 90pc of these deaths are preventable."

It says families are spending between €100-€144 a month on medicines, which puts them under huge financial pressure.

A recent survey found that in addition to the drugs costs, 27pc of patients were spending more than €400 a year on visits to their family doctor.

The society wants asthma medication included in the Long Term Illness Scheme or the basic Universal Health 
Insurance package.

In a pre-Budget submission, it has called on Mr Varadkar and Finance Minister Michael Noonan to change the rules so that the high cost of medicines is offset.

Launching the submission, Sharon Cosgrove, the society's chief executive, said: "Asthma is a disease that commonly runs in families, meaning that many households have several family members requiring asthma medication.

"This cost has become a 
massive burden to bear."

She pointed to the fact that Ireland has the 4th highest prevalence of asthma in the world and asthma sufferers are the largest chronic disease group in the country.

The condition affects one in 10 adults and one in five children.

Ms Cosgrove said society research showed high medication cost was "leading to poorly managed asthma and increased risk to sufferers of attacks.

"This has a significant impact on the health service and it is estimated that asthma costs the State €501m annually in health, social costs and loss of productivity," she said.

"An investment in asthma care makes economic sense.

"We are recommending steps for Government to take in Budget 2015 to improve asthma control by providing equitable access to medication, better care and limiting the impact of dangerous asthma triggers by taking a tough stance on tobacco and pollution."

According to the society, 60pc of people in this country have uncontrolled asthma - which means they are at risk of an asthma attack.

As part of its submission, the society has asked Mr Noonan to ensure that the HSE's National Clinical Programme for Asthma (NCPA) is resourced and the first €2.5m phase implemented.

The structured programme is designed to improve care for all asthma patients and take pressure off the health service in the longer term.

A recent report from the society highlighted the benefits that structured programmes have had in Finland and Australia.

The other measures called for by the society include an increased tax on tobacco linked to inflation and the establishment of a tobacco regulator with a cap on tobacco profits.

The society also wants an all-island smoky coal ban, which it says could save 2,000 lives a year, and it is in favour of an increase in the Carbon Tax to €30 per tonne.

csheehy@herald.ie

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