Greek rheumatoid arthritis patients are fighting with unaffordable costs

10 June 2016
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Greek sufferers from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are not only receiving a delayed diagnosis, but even after finding out about their disease they don’t take any medicines or are non-adherent to the treatment proposed by their physician, according to a new survey.
Athens University of Economics and Business’s researchers asked 557 randomly selected RA patients about their disease, its treatment and the potential barriers in access to treatment and medicines.

Ninety percent of respondents were women (median age 56-65 years).

Their answers showed that the average time needed from the first symptom until a final diagnosis was approximately two years. This delay was attributed in part to the fact that only 31% of RA patients visited a rheumatologist first while one in ten had to make multiple visits to a doctor till been officially diagnosed.

Even after the diagnosis though, patients aren’t always doing the right treatment. In fact, only two out of ten are following doctor’s orders. A 43% don’t receive any medicine at all and an further 34% are non-adherent to the treatment proposed to them and either delay to take their medicines or skip one or more doses.

Things are better among those given biological medicines, although almost one out of three (28%) admit that sometimes they forget or skip a dose or more of their medicines.

The survey, which was presented at the annual European Congress of Rheumatology which takes place in London, also revealed that for one of three (31%) patients the major barrier to treatment adherence is the physician’s visit cost, followed by the need of using someone else to pick the medicine due to patients’ inability (18%) and by the difficulty of booking an appointment with a specialist (15%).

Additional barriers are pharmacy’s distance from the patient’s home (31%) plus a long waiting time (17%).
«Early active treatment of rheumatoid arthritis by a rheumatologist and adherence to the prescribed medicines are crucial factors for inducing remission and preventing irreversible damage caused by RA» said Mr. Vlasis Stathakopoulos, Associate Professor, Department of Marketing & Communication, Athens University of Economics and Business.

«However, Greece’s fiscal situation has inevitably impacted the healthcare sector by raising barriers to patient access to treatment and limits to patient and doctor education.

»Our findings suggest that appropriately educating the public about RA’s symptoms and the need to visit the appropriate physician is of outmost importance. It is also necessary to remove the barriers to treatment and facilitate access of RA patients to it».

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