China launches new programme to help lupus patients

The launch of China’s first patient-assistance program boosting drug availability for needy patients with systematic lupus erythematosus was announced in Shanghai.

"Most patients are women at child-bearing age. Medications developed over the past 60 years resulted in side effects. Under current treatment, about 60 percent of patients still suffer frequent relapse and over 50 percent suffer organ damage," said Dr Lu Liangjing from Renji Hospital.

Treatment costs for the disease are also high. Annual medical bills for SLE patients in Shanghai last year ranged from 34,000 yuan (£3,843) to 107,000 yuan (£12,100)..

"Many patients are in financial crisis due to the disease and some have to quit taking medication due to the expense,” said Hu Ningning from China Primary Healthcare Foundation.

To reduce the financial burden on patients, the foundation teamed up with GlaxoSmithKline on the charity program to provide innovative medicines to needy SLE patients. A total of 100 hospitals in 20 cities are covered by the program. Eligible patients can submit applications at these hospitals to receive a new biological medicine to treat SLE that was approved by China's FDA in July, officials said.

From October 8, SLE patients can consult the program through the hotline 400-898-2880, WeChat account blxspap or the website