Treating Sickle Cell is quite expensive especially with the frequent need for hospitalization and medication required to keep crisis and pain at bay. In a weird way, this is much better because only a few decades ago, the mortality rate for children with SCD was high, particularly in underdeveloped regions. At the same time, longer lifespans have brought about challenges with healthcare providers such as adequate follow-up with children diagnosed with the disease at childbirth, availability of medication like hydroxyurea amongst others.
SCD and its management come with elevated costs that sometimes cause patients to discontinue treatment. As children with SCD grow into adulthood, there is a dramatic increase in their healthcare needs as their quality of life always needs to be improved; for my siblings I know this to be true particularly with my sister, seeing how she has needed to have more meds and increased levels of treatment as she has gotten older. It is believed that Nigeria has the highest rate of SCA in the world but families have very limited funds to keep up with the advancements in treatment of the disease. Everything from medication and hospitalization to even the regular routine doctor visits are so expensive and costly that many are opting for traditional methods of treatment (I will discuss this more in a later post).
In a country where the minimum wage is just N18,000 or $50 per month, with little to no government assistance, SCD remains an extremely expensive disease to have and manage. Only a few years ago, it was found that the average cost of care per hospitalization was about $133 so one can only imagine what that would be today. I remember that my mom would always spend no less than N20,000 each on medication alone for my brother and sister and they both did not always take the same drugs which was another challenge in itself because some would be readily available while others were not and more often than not, these drugs had time attachments to them.
In the U.S, studies show the annual cost of medical care for people who suffer from SCD exceeds $1.1 billion with the average total cost of care p/m per patient at almost $2000. For adults, costs were nearing almost $3000 per patient and for children, costs were about $900 a month. These costs are associated with in-patient care, physician visits, drugs, home health and emergency care. These are staggering statistics on their own and are even more so in countries like Nigeria that don't have government support or proper health insurance policies in place to help with costs. Thankfully, mine is not a low income household in the true sense of the word but that still doesn't change the fact that managing 2 sickle cell kids until recently has been a huge financial burden to bear. It was the bone marrow transplant my brother had come here to be a beneficiary of before he passed and the cost just to fly him here alone was crazy.
The overall cost of SCD only seems like it will keep increasing as the years go by because of not only factors like medication and treatment but also the complications of SCA itself. It is my sincerest hope and prayer that the govts back home and everywhere SCD is prevalent, charities, non-profits, well meaning individuals and organizations will continue to offer assistance and the much needed support to those affected who especially are unable to keep up with the growing costs for the disease's management.
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