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Experts warn about the ‘silent epidemic’ of kidney diseases in India

Mar 20, 2013

Participants at the roundtable on kidney care stress on a collaborative approach among all stakeholders to tackle the menace of chronic kidney disease (CKD) through creating awareness among the society, providing better access to treatment and educating people about the importance of organ donation.

Sensing the urgency about tackling the menace of CKD in India, the Research & Advocacy wing of Imprimis, a multi-disciplinary communications consultancy, organized a power-packed roundtable on kidney diseases. The roundtable, held a day before the World Kidney Day 2013, was built around the theme of “Care for Your Kidneys. Participants included kidney specialists from some of Delhi’s top medical institutions, along with representatives from the legal fraternity, insurance sector, NGOs and the Government.

Dr L Swasticharan, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) with the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare who is in charge of the National Tobacco Control Programme and other NCDs, gave the keynote address at the roundtable that had medical specialists discussing the rising kidney disease burden in India; its causes and symptoms; the role of pharmaceutical companies in medical innovation for CKD; the dilemma of dialysis v/s transplantation; deceased organ donation; and the role of health insurance in the equation.

Said Dr L Swasticharan: “The incidence of end-stage kidney disease in India is estimated to be 150 to 175 per million population per year (or between 150,000 and 175,000 cases). It needs focused attention in terms of raising awareness amongst the people, preventing CKD from happening and helping patients in managing the disease. CKD is no longer an uncommon disease and once it happens, it is expensive to manage. Though CKD is not something which cannot be treated at all, the cost is enormous. Moreover, it also affects the poor disproportionally and the awareness amongst the general public is low and needs to be addressed. CKD dramatically increases the risk of adverse outcomes in terms of healthcare costs, the quality of life the patient leads and ultimately the disease outcome.”

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is emerging as a major healthcare challenge for countries around the world. According to WHO, the diseases of the kidney and urinary tract contribute to over 850,000 deaths worldwide. As the incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) rises in India, the problem of CKD is becoming acute. Worse, only a very small percentage of the patients have access to renal replacement and transplant therapy or can afford the procedure.

Dr Sanjay Gupta, Additional Professor of Nephrology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, said: “Nearly 10% of the Indian population suffers from some form of kidney disease with close to 1.5 lakh people getting added to this number every year. The biggest worry is that most cases are asymptomatic; but, some symptoms such as lethargy, swelling of legs and face, anemia, and decreased appetite may point to presence of kidney disease. Recognition and prevention comprise the most important part of tackling CKD. It is important to control diabetes and hypertension for prevention of kidney diseases. Patients also need to avoid even chemicals such as pain medicines.”

The objective of the conference was to create awareness about all aspects of the CKD which kills hundreds of thousands of people every year in India. Experts gave their insights and shared their experiences about issues such as ensuring good kidney health, prevention, treatment and management of CKD, health insurance, legal tangles and kidney transplants.

Highlighting the role of the healthcare Industry in ensuring access of patients to treatment and promoting awareness among them about various diseases, Alok Khettry, Senior Director – CNS, Emerging Markets & Super Specialty Business, with Sanofi India, said: “The genesis of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) in a patient is usually silent, and hence, discovered late. Creating awareness about the disease is therefore vital as it could prevent many complications, emotional stress, and expenses that the patient incurs as a consequence of the disease. Sanofi, in its capacity as a healthcare company, is bringing together and collaborating with various stakeholders to improve the overall CKD management through patient awareness and better access to treatment. Through this approach, we can jointly improve survival rates, quality of life, and economic burden.”

Dr Harsha Jauhari, Chairman, Dept of Renal Transplant Surgery, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, said: “The number of transplants required is far more than the donors available. There are less than 300 registered kidney transplant centres, nearly 700 nephrologists and not more than 100 transplant surgeons. The scenario demands an urgent new approach with a lot of investment in research and prevention at genetic level, earliest diagnostic screening and advice and identification of vulnerable groups. CKD prevention should become a National Programme.”

Dr Sanjiv Jasuja, Sr Consultant – Nephrology, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, said: “Rampant use of painkillers & their free over the counter availability is becoming important cause of Acute Kidney Injury and Chronic Kidney disease in Community. With current availability resources & robust management strategies the patients of Kidney disease can look for near normal & healthy life. ”

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