According to the statistics of the Egyptian ministry of health one in every 10 Egyptians above the age of 55 is at risk of an eye disease that can cause blindness if not spotted and treated early. Although 80 per cent of these cases are avoidable, a big sector simply couldn’t afford the price of medication.
The causes of the blindness are twofold: wet AMD, affecting five per cent over the age of 50 and, secondly, diabetic retinopathy, which is the cause of 6 per cent of avoidable blindness cases.
On 18 December, the Egyptian health ministry announced a collaboration with Novartis Pharma Egypt to provide the underprivileged with 800 free vials of medication. The ministry detailed that they laid out plans to administer the medication free to all Egyptians within National Health Insurance Organisation.
Dr Khaled Amer, General Manager of the ministry's Ophthalmology Unit stressed to Ahram Online that this benefit is highly significant: "We signed on a global initiative in 2003 that aims to eradicate the causes of age-related blindness by the year 2020, and this step is an important one in that regard; reaching out to those who can’t afford medication and saving high expenses paid by the government to accommodate the lives of those who become blind for lack of treatment."
When asked about the statistics provided and whether they exceed international stats, he answers that they come within a very close range to statistics in the United States and Europe, stressing that the causes are still not fully known, but for certain they are related to aging.
Dr Amer stresses the importance of awareness in that regard: "In our profession we have come to meet with people whose lives tragically and absolutely unnecessarily changed after deteriorating from the disease. Imagine looking at your grandsons and seeing their faces as blur, or having to quit your job when you are still competent because of defective vision. We cannot stress enough the importance of conveying the message of regular checkups when people hit middle age."
The symptoms of the disease include seeing straight lines bended or hazy, and the formation of blur at the centre of vision, which extends and deepens throughout time.
The reasons are still a mystery, but some factors have been linked, like family history, diabetes, obesity and smoking. The only certain factor linked with blindness is aging.
On his behalf, Dr Salah El Sharkawi, Novartis President and spokesperson stressed that the support of the company stems from its civic duty towards the community. He said it was an honour to cooperate with the Egyptian health ministry to provide such a life-altering treatment to the needy everywhere in Egypt.
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