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Eczema sufferers are being unfairly slugged with increasingly expensive medication to the point they are choosing to live with pain instead of seeking relief.
For Eczema Awareness Week (15-21 May 2022), the Eczema Association of Australasia Inc (EAA) is calling on government bodies to provide more support for sufferers and their carers through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
EAA members spend up to $7,000 a year on treating the condition, which over the course of a lifetime amounts to $280,000. The majority of this cost are attributed to skin care measures, time off work, health care visits and potential complementary medicinal approaches before seeing a dermatologist.
EAA President Cheryl Talent said that the lack of knowledge about the real cost of living with eczema is forcing people to suffer in silence.
“Currently there is no support provided to eczema sufferers and their carers through NDIS which means the out-of-pocket expenses associated with maintaining the condition can be astronomical,” Ms Talent said.
“Our members are suffering in silence. With the cost of living increasing dramatically and interest rates rising fast, our members and their families need more financial support and affordable treatment options.
“Many of our members struggle to pay for expensive treatments and the constant re-purchasing of moisturisers and pain relief, and if they can’t afford it, they attempt to just live with the pain – which significantly impacts people’s mental health and wellbeing – a cost that is far greater than any.
“People assume that eczema is just a rash, but the financial, emotional, mental, and social burden that comes with eczema is significant.
“People can see the eczema on a person’s skin but what they can’t see is the mental health impact from trying to treat the condition,” she said.
Common treatments for severe atopic dermatitis include prescription medications, injections, topical creams, UV therapy, and immune suppressants.
On top of medication, most eczema suffers also purchase specialist moisturisers, skincare, makeup, deodorant, hair products, non-irritant clothes and bedding, bandages, antihistamines, and pain relief – to name a few.
Bondi dermatologist and Fellow of the Australasian College of Dermatologists, Dr Philip Tong said people with eczema have to try multiple expensive treatments and combined management plans to find a solution.
“Because everyone experiences the condition differently, there are different ways to gain relief and effectively treat it,” said Dr Philip Tong.
“While some treatments are now listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), the reality is people can spend anywhere from $400 to $7000 on treatment programs per year.
“Then there’s the added cost of other over-counter products, the money and time attending specialist appointments, taking time off work to attend or to care for yourself at home during a flare up – it can really add up,” Dr Tong said.
Eczema Awareness Week is conducted in May because it is a key time when eczema sufferers are impacted by their flare-ups and dry, cracked, and raw skin leading into the winter months.
“This Eczema Awareness Week we are encouraging conversations about the real cost of living with eczema,” Ms Talent said.
“This is also a time when people come to us most for support, so we try to educate them on best practices and management.”
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It is not the policy of the Eczema Association of Australasia Inc to recommend or endorse any product or treatment.
It is part of the role of the Association to provide information on a wide range of products and treatments to keep those involved with eczema as fully informed as possible as to all options available. For medical advice, consult your health professional.