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ADDRESS BY HON. JOHN. J. JUNOR, MINISTER OF HEALTH AT NHF MEDIA BREAKFAST

ADDRESS BY HON. JOHN. J. JUNOR, MINISTER OF HEALTH AT NHF MEDIA BREAKFAST

Address Hon John Junor, Minister of Health

NHF Media Breakfast, Oct. 27, 2005

This morning marks another important milestone in the treatment of chronic diseases in Jamaica. The increase in subsidy for drugs on the NHF Drug List to 80% of the reference price of these drugs and the introduction of subsidies for supplies used for the monitoring and management of diabetes will greatly reduce the burden on families and individuals with these conditions.

Diabetes is one of the most common chronic conditions in Jamaica. Over 400,000 Jamaican residents have diabetes or one in six persons living in Jamaica has diabetes. Diabetes affects all the organs of the body and is a major risk factor for several other conditions including heart disease and high blood pressure. Therefore controlling diabetes will impact on the prevalence and morbidity or illness associated with other conditions as well.

It should be noted that these items, to be subsidized by the NHF for the monitoring and management of diabetes, cost patients approximately the same as prescription drugs and their proper use will improve the condition of patients and lower their drug use.

Because of lack of affordability for example there are persons living with diabetes who need to inject themselves with insulin who would use a syringe more than once. This increases the risk of infection from contamination between uses and so with the subsidy from the NHF on two syringes per day, this risk will be reduced or eliminated ensuring better health for the diabetic.

Monitoring of the glucose level is also vital for the best control of the disease and everyone with diabetes should be testing themselves regularly based on the recommendations of their doctor. The complimentary Glucometers and subsidies for supplies will provide patients and their doctors with valuable information for the proper treatment and management of the condition.

The consistent additions to the NHF Drug list has ensured that the majority of the more frequently prescribed drugs are on now the list. This has meant that the requests for additions to the list have been greatly reduced over time.

Today?s announcement of the increase in the subsidy to 80% of the reference price of the drugs will improve the equity in the provision of pharmaceutical care in Jamaica. Previously even with a fifty percent subsidy many persons were not able to afford drugs that might have been more efficacious in the treatment of their condition. This increase in subsidy will certainly change that equation for thousands more Jamaicans.

In the two years since its establishment over 65,000 persons have enrolled for the NHF card and are taking advantage of the significant savings that the NHF offers for prescription drugs. With the expansion of the programme we expect this figure to continue to increase significantly possibly another 20,000 members in the next year. The estimated cost for increasing the subsidy to 80% of the reference price of the drugs and adding the diabetic supplies, is approximately $495 million for the first 12 month period. The cost of the subsidy for diabetic supplies is projected to be approximately $139 million for the first year.

The database being established by the NHF Individual Benefits is significantly improving our data collection and knowledge of chronic illnesses and their treatment. For example we have observed that sixty percent of NHF claims are from private sector pharmacies. This is the first time we are able to observe the behaviour of patients in the private health sector. This is going to give us a more comprehensive view of the epidemiology of our population and so improve our ability to plan for and reduce disease burden.

Indeed another encouraging fact is that analysis of data for the past year shows that the average prices of many NHF prescription drugs have decreased. Of the 66 drugs most used by NHF Beneficiaries during the past year, 23 showed a reduction or no increase in cost. However, 34 had increases of up to 25% and 7 had increases greater than 25%. This is still an area of concern for my Ministry as increases greater than inflationary pressures are, we believe, unwarranted. It is heartening that, in some cases, new brands have entered the market resulting in a lowering of cost to patients.

In this regard I also extend my sincere thanks to the six manufacturers and distributors who will be providing monitoring devices free of charge to NHF beneficiaries with diabetes. This is an important step in furthering private/public sector cooperation in the health sector as we work together to ensure that benefits the NHF is making available to Jamaican residents reach them.

The sustainability of the National Health Fund is not only dependent on the funds the NHF has been legally mandated to collect but also on their prudent management. Efficient management and stewardship of the funds are critical in facilitating our advance towards world class standards of health for the whole population.

I have no doubt that the NHF will continue to play a vital role in achieving this objective, because of the tremendous strides already made in establishing itself as a well run organization and a viable entity that is collaborating successfully with the Jamaican health community both private and public.

Later today you will hear more about how NHF will be providing services to the National HIV/STI Programme in ensuring that HIV medication available through the Global Fund reach persons living with HIV who need medication.

My congratulations to the Board for its stewardship under the able leadership of Chairman Campbell and to the staff for their efficient and effective management. This is evidenced too by the on time publication of the NHF Annual Report, which I will table shortly in the House of Parliament.

Partnership in the health sector is critical to advance the health status of our Population so let us continue to work together to ensure the progress of all Jamaicans.

Hon. John A. Junor, MP

Minister of Health

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