Red Bean Assistance Program By National Kidney Foundation

 A financial assistance programme for low-income kidney disease patients.

Petaling Jaya, October 1 – The National Kidney Foundation Malaysia (NKF) is raising public awareness on its Red Bean Assistance Programme to alleviate the economic burden of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) patients with anaemia, especially those from the B40 group. The program in collaboration with Roche Malaysia was started since 1st August 2019.

Prevalence of CKD in Malaysia is 15.48% based on a study in 2018, with about 50,000 patients on dialysis nationwide. Most dialysis patients have anaemia (deficiency of red blood cells) and it gets more severe as the disease progresses.

Kidneys make erythropoietin (EPO) that stimulates the body to make red blood cells. Unfortunately, the level of EPO is reduced among those with damaged kidneys. Low EPO levels leads to the development of anaemia. To make matters worse, CKD patients also lose blood during haemodialysis treatments which further reduces the haemoglobin level.

The Red Bean Assistance Programme will relieve the financial burden for CKD patients with severe anaemia by providing them with partially or fully-funded Erythropoietin-Stimulating Agent (ESA) treatment.  ESA signals the bone marrow to produce more red blood cells. This innovative, monthly medication simplifies renal anaemia management for patients.

“Kidney patients need long-term treatment and the cost to sustain dialysis is high, especially for those with renal anaemia. While the burden is difficult to bear for most patients, the hardest hit are those from the low-income group. NKF provides support and treatment at our 27 centres nationwide with more than 1,700 dialysis patients to manage. Through this innovative, co-payment programme, the cost of the patient’s Erythropoiesis-Stimulating Agents (ESA) treatment is co-shared between the patient, NKF and Roche,” said Dato Dr Zaki Morad, chairman at NKF.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) lauded this corporate responsibility initiative by NKF and Roche Malaysia during the earlier launch, highlighting that the well-being of kidney patients as an important priority. MOH also stated then that the Red Bean Assistance Programme would help meet the needs of kidney patients, especially since it is a growing issue in Malaysia and worldwide.

The name ‘Red Bean’ under the Red Bean Assistance Programme was chosen for its visual resemblance in shape and colour to a kidney. The programme is expected to benefit more than 600 patients for the first year and 1,000 for the next two years, making it a total of more than 1,600 patients within the first three years. This is indeed a timely program to lighten the financial burden of many poor CKD patients amid the current challenging economy.

Patients will be assessed by a qualified nephrologist for eligibility before they are referred to the nearest NKF dialysis centre or other suitable and agreed upon dialysis centre. Upon approval by NKF, the assistance will last for a year, with a review at the end for renewal.

Kidney failure patients, whether they are on dialysis or not, and including non-NKF patients from government hospitals, private and NGOs dialysis centres that require EPO treatment are eligible to apply for the programme through NKF centres nationwide.

Members of the public who are interested in contributing towards NKF’s efforts for its dialysis patients can find out more through NKF’s website at www.nkf.org.my or call 03-7954 9048 ext. 218/207.

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