Health ministry wants Alzheimer’s drugs in seniors program

KINGSTON: As the number of elderly Jamaicans suffering from Alzheimer’s disease increases, the Ministry of Health is looking to add drugs for the treatment of the condition to the Jamaica Drug for the Elderly Program (JADEP).

“We are exploring the addition of certain drugs for the treatment of Alzheimer’s because of the increasing number of elderly persons who are presenting with this condition,” Minister Rudyard Spencer said at a community outreach and health fair last week.

Alzheimer’s is an irreversible brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually the ability to carry out simple tasks. It is the most common cause of dementia among seniors.

Introduced in 1996, JADEP provides assistance for persons 60 years and over to purchase prescription drugs for selected chronic conditions. More than 17,000 persons enrolled in JADEP during the last financial year, with 13,312 new beneficiaries added between January and November this year, bringing the total number of beneficiaries to 222,605.

Spencer said that while the country has made important gains in health care, chronic non-communicable diseases remain prevalent, especially among the elderly population.

Data from the 2009 Jamaica Survey of Living Conditions indicates that 15 per cent of persons in the 60 to 64 age group who reported a chronic illness, suffered from diabetes and 37 per cent from hypertension. In addition, 14 per cent had diabetes while 32.5 per cent had hypertension in the 65 and over age cohort.

“This situation requires close monitoring from the ministry, as our elderly population has declining income,” said Spencer.

In the meantime, Spencer said that the government is “pressing ahead” with its primary health care renewal program to ensure that people, especially the elderly, are able to access health facilities near to where they live.

“Our elderly must be able to access quality health care closer to their communities. As I indicated in the Parliament two months ago, we are continuing with the rehabilitation of our health centres,” said Spencer.



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