Low income patients in UAE to receive free MS and cancer drugs

The deal between the health ministry and two drug firms will help about 260 people

Closeup of pharmacist's hands taking medicines from shelf at the pharmacy. Getty Images
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Drugs to treat conditions including multiple sclerosis and blood cancer are to be made available to low income UAE residents who are not able to access them through medical insurance.

About 260 people are expected to benefit from a deal between the Ministry of Health and Prevention, Biologix, a medical supplies company, and Axios Health Education Services.

The agreement will apply to patients with multiple myeloma, psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, and relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. It will mean drugs will be made available to those who are only partially covered by insurance, or are not covered at all, for free.

Multiple sclerosis in particular is an issue in the UAE. The autoimmune disorder affects 64 per 100,000 people in Abu Dhabi, which is more than twice the World Health Organisation's global prevalence estimate of 30 per 100,000.

“This humanitarian initiative is part of a series of initiatives launched by MOHAP in conjunction with the Year of Tolerance,” said Ruqaya Al Bastaki, director of drug department at the ministry.

“It aims at providing drugs for the needy patients who aren’t covered by insurance, improving patients’ commitment to pursuing their treatment plan, supporting uninsured patients and those who don’t have prescriptions to obtain their treatment."

The legal requirement for health insurance varies across the Emirates, meaning cover treatment chronic illnesses may not be covered or may run out.

Most medical insurance has a limit - Dubai's mandatory insurance covers just Dh150,000 of care per year while Abu Dhabi's basic plan covers D250,000. Insurance plans covering Dh500,000 to Dh2 million worth of treatment or more is common in private sector employers and corporates. The Northern Emirates have no mandatory medical insurance.

As The National reported this year, publicly-owned hospitals in Abu Dhabi follow a presidential pledge to fund treatment for those unable to afford care for rare or life threatening diseases.