New Delhi: The AIIMS demanded that Lupus, an autoimmune disease, be included in the health ministry’s list of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), so that the governments focus on it gets intensified and the treatment becomes cost-effective.
Despite a high burden of the disease, awareness about lupus is dismal among public, policy makers and even physicians in developing countries, particularly in India, said Dr Uma Kumar, the Head of the Department of Rheumatology, AIIMS.
“Even the World Health Organisation, which monitors prevalence of chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer and diabetes mellitus, does not mention lupus. So there is an urgent need to spread awarness about it,” Kumar said.
She further said around 20 per cent of all patients who visit the out patient departments (OPDs) of Rheumatology suffer from lupus and still people do not even know what are the basic factors that triggers the disease, resulting in deformity and irreversible organ damage.
“Patients require lifelong treatment once they get lupus and sometimes the patient does not respond to the first line drugs. In such cases second line drugs which include biological agents have to be administered and here the cost goes up very high.
“Diseases under the Health Ministrys NCD list have special programmes and thus lupus should be included in the list. If the disease gets included in the list of NCDs, one can get the medicines at subsidised rates if governments wants,” Kumar said.
An estimated five million people worldwide have lupus and it is more common in women who are in their reproductive age group (20-40 years).
The disease can damage any organ from skin to kidneys, heart etc. Though the exact cause of Lupus is not documented the factors that jointly contribute to occurrence of the disease are ultra violet rays, air pollution, genetical issues, toxic substances like pesticides, vitamin D deficiency and environment.
Symptoms of lupus include prolonged fever, oral ulcers, excessive hair fall, skin rashes and joint pains.
Also, the state of ongoing inflammation in the body leads to premature atherosclerosis, hyper tension, coronary artery disease cerebrovascular accidents and reduces the lifespan.
Lupus is more common in females in their reproductive age.