Georgia marks World Rheumatoid Arthritis Day

Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis Found Union

Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have founded a union to provide mutual support and raise public awareness over the challenges faced by arthritis sufferers. In addition, Georgia will mark World Autoimmune Arthritis Day for the fourth time; the event aims to raise public awareness of the disease in an effort to provide 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.

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 now officially been founded in Georgia. We plan to play a mediator’s role between patients and government structures. This is a terrible disease, which causes chronic from pain for years. There are some methods of treatment, some of which have been financed; patients under 18 have received support, but 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 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 out about the issue. However, it is rather difficult for an individual citizen to raise such a substantial 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 herself, said that the main goal of the Union was to raise public awareness of the disease to make sure that people who have already noticed some RA symptoms go 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 the right treatment is provided.”

“Today’s initiative and the foundation of the Union makes me 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 for arthritis sufferers” 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 medication 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. An 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 medication.

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.

30 May 2016 19:09