More than 100,000 patients suffer with rheumatic disease in Cyprus and around 35,000 with inflammatory rheumatic disease, Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said on Monday.
At a news conference to launch an awareness campaign for rare diseases, he said:
“These diseases have increased needs for outpatient services but also hospital care.”
The minister said that the effects of this disease not only affected patients, but also health systems and society in general. For example, in Europe, rheumatic diseases were the most common cause of absence from work, and account for 50 per cent of long-term functional disability.
Ioannou said the awareness campaign was to highlight early diagnosis and access to therapies and aimed to highlight the importance of prevention and immediate and effective therapeutic intervention.
“Rheumatological diseases and autoimmune diseases represent a large proportion of the chronic diseases currently occupying the medical field because of their high incidence – especially among young people – but also the complexity and diversity of the clinical picture,” he added.
He said the ministry was preparing a national strategy on rheumatic diseases, that will give an exact picture of the current situation as well as the actions that need to be taken.
A second specialist had been appointed to the rheumatology clinic at the Limassol general hospital, and another at the Nicosia general, the minister said. The ministry was also updating the protocols for some drugs.
“We all recognise that our pharmaco-economic capabilities are limited. However, realising that there are still increased needs, to this end we have developed cooperation with our other European partners in the context of the Vallet Declaration to ensure better access to innovative treatments for our patients,” he added.
It was clear that early diagnosis and appropriate treatment provided positive outcomes, “so equal access to treatment for patients is at the heart of the general health system”, he said.
Its implementation would ensure easy access to health services and treatment by experienced health professionals.