All rheumatology care is not created equal. Throughout the world, doctors and patients struggle with access to disease-altering drugs, extremely high costs of care, shortages of trained
rheumatologists and other barriers to effective healthcare. That’s why in 2007, an organization called the International League of Associations for Rheumatology (ILAR) revised its mission to support programs that lead to progress in the practice and education of rheumatology in countries where there is an exceptional need. The group partners with organizations throughout the world including the American College of Rheumatology, and leagues of rheumatology in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Pan-American region. On Tuesday morning at the American College of Rheumatology Conference, representatives from each league discussed the difficulties for doctors and patients in their particular communities.
All of the presenters cited inequities in access to biologic drugs. The degree to which insurance covers the costs of biologics and other drugs is extremely inconsistent. The better a patient’s country is doing economically, the more likely he or she is to have access to biologics. In many regions, the cost is far too high for the majority of patients. Many countries have not outlined clinical criteria for use of different types of drugs to treat rheumatic disease. In Africa, many patients aren’t educated about the benefits of certain types of drugs and are wary to try biologics. Those that are willing often can’t get biologics because after financial concerns, there isn’t enough storage in the country and deliveries are often delayed.
The most pervasive issue with getting patients access to biologics is money. The out-of-pocket cost to patients is often astronomical. In some countries, the use of biosimilars may be an effective way to combat this issue. Additionally, individuals can advocate to insurance companies and local governments that the cost needs to be covered. The leaders also advocated strongly for better education. Doctors, patients, and insurance companies need to better understand the role of biologics and other drugs. Hopefully, education in the general community can inspire individuals to pursue careers in rheumatology to help mitigate the shortage and get treatment to patients more efficiently. Dr. Olufemi Adelowo of Africa emphasized that the most powerful thing any one person can do to help increase patient access to treatments is advocate for better education.
To learn more about ILAR, their mission, and the projects they fund click here: http://www.ilar.org/about/
To contact the group, email: [email protected]