DOH distributes free emergency medicine for stroke patients in hospitals

In celebration of Brain Attack Awareness Week, the Department of Health (DOH) launched the medical assistance program that will make stroke medication alteplase or tissue plasminogen activator available to the public for free, in selected government hospitals nationwide.

"Alteplase or tissue plasminogen activator is ideally given in the first 3 hours upon onset of acute stroke. Only patients who have ischemic type of stroke, or those with blocked blood vessels in the brain, will benefit from this, since alteplase breaks down unwanted blood clots. It is very important that the attending doctor distinguish the type of stroke, whether ischemic or haemorrhagic, as alteplase will just worsen the stroke if given to those with the haemorrhagic type since this will just promote more bleeding in the brain." Health Secretary Paulyn Jean B. Rosell-Ubial explained.

The Stroke Society of the Philippines (SSP) has long been advocating for creation of acute stroke units in hospitals nationwide. SSP helps in building the capacity of hospitals nationwide in establishing acute stroke units. Currently, there are 26 government hospitals across the country equipped with acute stroke units.

"Acute stroke units will ensure to improve chance of survival of stroke patients, reduce disability, shorten hospital stay and shorten length of rehabilitation." Dr. Epifania Collantes, SSP President said.

Initially, the DOH distributed alteplase in government hospitals. Realizing that some patients might not have the choice but be brought to private hospitals because of the emergency nature of stroke, Secretary Ubial instructed government hospitals to explore partnership with private hospitals so patients admitted in private hospitals could also avail of alteplase, free of charge. Private hospitals will write to hospitals under DOH requesting for alteplase vials and request will be granted but we should be assured that these will be given for free, not even minimal cost, to eligible patients.

"Alteplase is truly a life saving drug and every stroke patient eligible to receive it, should have access to it. It is not acceptable that a patient who cannot shelve out Php 80,000 will be deprived of this emergency medicine at a time when this is needed the most. This is the reason why the DOH procured this medicine in bulk, and DOH pays only Php30,000 per vial, which is 50,000 less than when this is bought in pharmacies." Secretary Ubial added.

Stroke is a brain attack, always an emergency that is potentially treatable, and most importantly preventable. It belongs to diseases of the vessels that are the second most common cause of death worldwide and in the Philippines. According to the 2013 Philippine Health Statistics, 6 per 10,000 died from stroke or cerebrovascular diseases, and stroke is also the leading cause of disability in adults with up to 32% of all stroke survivors permanently disabled. To suspect stroke, act F.A.S.T: F (face drooping) or sudden numbness or weakness of face; A (arm weakness), arm or leg, on one side of body; sudden trouble in walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; S (speech difficulty), any slurring of speech, trouble speaking or understanding; sudden severe headache with no known cause; T (time) to go to Emergency room within 2 hours if you experience any of the mentioned symptoms.

"The best way to prevent stroke is to engage in healthy lifestyle. Do not smoke. Do not drink alcohol excessively. Engage in regular aerobic activity. Hypertensive and diabetic patients should take their medications regularly as well as maintain healthy lifestyle. Maintain your ideal body weight. Avoid high-caloric and fatty foods. Eat diet rich in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products. Together, let us start our journey today in all for health towards health for all." Secretary Ubial concluded.

Source: Philippine Information Agency