Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have founded a union and Georgia has joined the World Autoimmune Arthritis Day, which has been marked in Georgia since 2012.
The event aims to raise public awareness of the disease in an effort to provide availability of timely diagnostic and treatment services.
The meeting brought together Inga Mamuchishvili, a chairperson of the Union of Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis, Marina Sagharadze and Rusudan Ediberidze, founders of the Union, as well Tinatin Samkurashvili, a PR consultant at GEPRA, a company supporting the Union.
The Representatives of the Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs, Parliament, the Health Care Committee of the City Council, doctors, patients and other guests were invited to the meeting.
“The Union of Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis has been founded in Georgia for the first time. We plan to play a kind of a mediator’s role between patients and government structures. This is a terrible disease, which makes a person suffer from pain for years. There are some methods of treatment, part of which has been financed, in particular, patients under 18 have received support, however, this disease does not depend on the age”.
“It may occur both in a 2-year old child and an elderly person. Our aim is to raise awareness of the problem. The treatment is quite expensive. We would like to make the public and government structures aware of the need of permanent treatment required for the disease. This is a chronic disease causing disability. I have personally suffered from the disease, I am an RA patient myself, this is why I have decided to speak up on the issue. It is rather difficult for an individual citizen to raise a big amount of funds for the treatment,“ said Marina Sagharadze, one of the founders of the Union of Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Inga Mamuchishvili, a founder of the Union of Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis, and a doctor, said that the goal of the Union was to raise public awareness of the disease to make sure that a big portion of the population who has already noticed RA symptoms, goes to a doctor in a timely manner “to make tests and start treatment. First a family doctor, then a radiologist and rheumatologist should be involved in the process to diagnose the disease timely. RA is rather an aggressive disease, which damages the connecting tissue basically located in the osteoarticular system. The body is in chaos and the immune system starts fighting the joints. Therefore a person with rheumatoid arthritis is doomed to become disabled unless right treatment services are provided“.
“Today’s initiative and the foundation of the Union makes me rather happy because I am an RA patient myself and have had the disease for already 20 years. It is rather challenging to live with rheumatoid arthritis. Therefore I think that this organization will raise patients’ awareness, improve communications and will do a lot of good and necessary things for the patients“, said Rusudan Machabeli, one of the founders of the Union of Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Finally, an online petition has been published urging the Ministry of Health, Labor and Social Affairs and the City Council of the Tbilisi Municipality to increase access to the biological drugs for RA patients.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic, progressive, autoimmune disease causing joints swelling and damage and ultimately leads to disability of an RA patient. According to statistical data, every third person in the world is suffering from the disease. The incidence of the disease among women is three times higher compared to men. Rheumatoid arthritis may begin at any age but mostly occurs in people aged from 35 to 50. Rheumatoid arthritis may damage all the joints, but it affects mostly hand, leg and wrist joints. The progressive damage to joints is accompanied by decreasing a person’s ability to work and move independently. RA patients, in particular, are unable to make such simple movements as comb their hair, walk on the stairs, cook etc. In developing countries more than half of patients lose their job and source of income in 10 years.
RA patients may have complications like cardiovascular or lung diseases, osteoporosis, anemia etc. RA patients’ life span may decrease by 5-10 years. Early diagnosis and treatment hampers disease progression and prevents irrevocable damage to joints. However, unfortunately most of the diagnosed patients in Georgia are unable to receive adequate treatment because they cannot afford medications.
The Union of Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis was founded in 2016. The key goal of the organization is to increase public awareness of the disease; provide adequate treatment for patients resistant to standard therapy (those with particularly serious forms of the disease); communicate on an ongoing basis with the Association of Rheumatology of Georgia, representative of pharmaceutical companies and other medical institutions to exchange disease related news, methods and information about new medications.