Rare Disease Day 2014

Written by on February 24th, 2014 –

What is Rare Disease Day?

Rare Disease Day, which takes place on February 28th, is a day to raise awareness about rare diseases and their impact on patients’ lives.

What is a rare disease?

A rare disease is defined as a condition affecting fewer than 1 in 2000 people. There are more than 7000 diagnosed rare diseases and many more undiagnosed diseases. Nearly three million Canadians have a rare disease. 

In North America, NMO affects 4 in 100,000 people. Currently Canada has 2000 NMO patients. 200 of those NMO patients reside in British Columbia.

How does having a rare disease affect patients?

Financial and administrative barriers deter physicians, researchers and scientists from submitting funding requests for small patient markets. Standardized drug trials require a certain number of subjects for a specified length of time. Due to the small patient market of a rare disease population, there are limited drug discovery initiatives funded by pharmaceutical companies. Therapies may be available but are not distributed or developed further due to the limited demand. This means that the drugs available to a patient are severely limited and often the drugs used to treat their diseases are used “off label”, meaning they were developed for a completely different illness. This can lead to a lack of drug coverage by the Canadian government.

For example, the current drug therapies approved in BC for NMO are two immunosuppressant drugs in pill form, which were developed as anti-rejection drugs for kidney transplant patients. A third drug which is administered as an infusion is being used in the US, but does not currently have coverage in Canada. If the two immunosuppressant drugs in pill form fail for any reason, there is no back up drug for an NMO patient to turn to. My NMO specialist in BC is working hard to change this by lobbying the provincial government for coverage.

Another big issue for people living with a rare disease is the lack of scientific knowledge and quality information on the disease, which can lead to a delay in diagnosis and/or inappropriate or a lack of care. Initial mis-diagnosis is common.

Drawing from my own experience, I was initially mis-diagnosed with MS, which is common for NMO patients. When I visit a hospital for any reason, I can guarantee that every single medical practitioner I come into contact with will need to be educated about what NMO is and how it affects me. I’ve given what I refer to as “A Crash Course in NMO 101” to up to 5 health care providers in a single visit. When you are sick, it can be exhausting having to do this.

So what can we do to support those living with a rare disease?

Help raise awareness! It’s really easy! Visit Rare Disease Day to download a social media banner for your Facebook page or a profile picture for your Twitter and share it. Rare Disease Day is February 28th, but you can do this any time this week. Share on your Facebook status update or Twitter post that you are participating in Rare Disease Day and invite your friends, family and followers to do the same!

Thank you for your support!

For more information on NMO, please visit: http://www.guthyjacksonfoundation.org/


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