The Glaucoma Association of Ghana (GAG) has entreated government to exclude glaucoma drugs from taxes to reduce the cost burden on patients with the health condition.
According to the association, removal of taxes would reduce the total cost of treatment of the eye condition by 50 percent and significantly release patients of the huge financial burden.
Figures from the association indicate that on average, a person with glaucoma would have to spend about GH¢260 per month on treatment which translates into a staggering GH¢224,803 for the entire duration of the treatment.
‘This can build a retirement home, the truth of the matter is that the glaucoma patient is not only living in the dark but what they will live in during their retirement is also taken from them.
We know that there are exemptions on some drugs and glaucoma drugs should be added to the list of exempted drugs,’ Dr Mike Gyasi, vice president of the Ophthalmological Society of Ghana said.
He was speaking at the press launch of the World Glaucoma Week celebrations on the theme: ‘Reduce Glaucoma Drugs to Beat Invisible Glaucoma’.
Dr Gyasi disclosed that the issue is not wholly about taking away taxes from glaucoma drugs but replacing old drugs unto the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), adding that the current drugs are not efficacious enough to treat glaucoma.
‘The cost of the new drugs is not too expensive and therefore it will not cost government too much to put the drugs on the list,’ he added.
Ghana is among the leading nations in the world with the severe type of glaucoma which is primary open angle glaucoma.
About 700,000 Ghanaians have the disease out of which 250,000 do not know they have glaucoma and 60,000 Ghanaians are already blind from the condition.
Feedbacks from the public shows 25 percent of Ghanaians now know something about glaucoma and out of this, at least 20 percent, have taken action to check their status.
Harrison Abutiate, GAG president, said it is well documented that the condition tends to run in the family.
‘In view of this, special efforts are being made to reach out to family members of glaucoma patients to ensure that they get proper eye screening,’ he said.
Mr Abutiate said research has showed that most people living with glaucoma do not recollect the name ‘glaucoma’ after a visit to the eye care facility but can remember the condition if a local name was coined for it.
He, therefore, announced that GAG had introduced an Akan name for glaucoma called ‘Hinta Anifraye’ to enable people to recollect the health condition.
Dr Sylvester Anemana, chief director of the Ministry of Health (MoH) representing the sector minister, said the ministry is currently reviewing the essential drug list and that due consideration would be given to such drugs on the list and as part of the National Eye Care Programme.
By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri & Angela Dzidzornu
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