The 2015 world Glaucoma week celebration was launched Tuesday with a call on government to waive taxes on drugs and include more drugs on the National Health Insurance drug list.
The Glaucoma Association of Ghana (GAG) said tax waivers would reduce by half the financial burden on glaucoma patients.
The Day is celebrated from March 9-15 in over 65 countries to raise awareness on glaucoma, what it does to sight, and how it affects people.
This year’s launch, which is the 25 anniversary of the GAG, was also used to officially unveil the coined Akan name for Glaucoma which is ‘HUNTAFRAYE” for the local people to identify with.
It was on the theme “Reduce cost of Glaucoma drugs to Beat Invisible Glaucoma”
About 60 million people worldwide have the disease, which is expected to shoot up to 80 million by the year 2020, 30 million of the number, do not know of their condition while nine million have gone blind.
In Ghana 700,000 people are affected, 250,000 are not aware of their condition while some 60,000 people are already blind.
However awareness creation embarked on by the GAG has yielded results with increase in clinic attendance.
Dr Slyvester Anemana, the Chief Director of the Ministry of Health said the Ministry had noted the request from the GAG for the inclusion of more glaucoma drugs on the NHIS drug list, decrease in duties on glaucoma drugs and equipment and financial support for GAG awareness creation in Ghana, which, he agreed was long overdue.
He noted that the Essential Drug List had been reviewed and expressed the hope that due consideration would be given to such drugs on the list and as part of the National Eye Care Programme.
According to him the MOH was making efforts to make eye health a basic service in all districts hospitals and also to ensure that specialists support was made available to all.
Mr Harrison Abutiate, the National President of the Association, said the theme was apt “because although we have done a lot to create awareness, high cost of Glaucoma drugs has been identified as a major challenge to all glaucoma patients.”
“We have shown and drawn attention to the high prevalence of people living with Glaucoma in Ghana. We are among the leading nations in the world with the severe type, primary open angle Glaucoma (POAG).
Indeed feedback from the public shows that at least 25 per cent of Ghanaians now know something about Glaucoma or have heard about Glaucoma and out of this number, at least 20 per cent have taken action to check their status”.
Dr Mike Gyasi, the Vice President of the Ophthalmological Society of Ghana touched on the high cost of drugs, and noted that, the sector ministry should urgently do something about the situation because one out of 10 Ghanaians under 40 years were likely to get the disease.
He denied that glaucoma was a disease of the north and said 17 per cent of the patients with the disease, who visited the Emmanuel Eye Clinic in Accra came in blind.
On the average, a glaucoma patient spends about GH¢ 260.00 per month, he said, and noted that, should inflation go up by 12 per cent, the annual total spent on drugs could build a modest retirement house for a retiree.
Glaucoma occurs when the intra ocular pressure has been raised over a period causing damage to the optic nerve with corresponding loss of visual function.
Untreated glaucoma results in blindness because of the irreversible damage it causes.
Also known as the silent thief of sight and the second leading cause of blindness after cataract, Glaucoma, is said to affect Africans and African Americans more than whites and women more than men.
The GAG, a glaucoma patient support group, was founded by the late Lawyer Glymin Snr. and his colleagues 25 years ago.