The Kerala Assembly was informed on Wednesday that five lakh people suffer from ankylosing spondylitis (AS) in the state and a detailed survey would be done to identify and treat these patients.
Even though the cause of ankylosing spondylitis is not known, it has been identified as a variant of rheumatoid arthritis in which there is a long-term inflammation of the joints of the spine.
This issue was brought before the House by CPI-M legislator Murali Perunelli who explained how 29-year-old off-beat filmmaker Sijo Kannanaikkal, whose recent film on Kathakali won appreciation across the globe, was suffering from this ailment.
Kannanaikkal calls the movie a "reflection" of his life.
"I know him for several years and he has been suffering from this disease for a long time. I was a bit taken aback when he came to meet me and asked if I could take up this issue in the assembly. He looked more slouched than before and said he was not able to stand straight," said Perunelli.
Perunelli told IANS that according to rough estimates, there are five lakh people in Kerala suffering from this ailment and the treatment is very expensive.
"Even though there are painkiller injections available, they are very expensive and beyond the reach of many, as in a year such patients have to take four injections, costing Rs one lakh each. This treatment facility is not available in all the state-run facilities," said Perunelli.
State Minister for Health K.K. Shailaja informed the House that this disease affects those in the age group of 15 to 45 and at the moment the treatment is available mostly through surgery, physiotherapy and tablets.
"At the moment, the treatment for AS is available only in the state-run medical colleges and we will see that a survey is conducted to identify those who are suffering from this ailment and they will be given free treatment. Today we have extended physiotherapy facility in 22 state-run establishments," said Shailaja.
The injection that has to be taken every quarter is at present not available in the country and is imported from the West.
"Experts have pointed out that if this disease is identified early and proper treatment is given, then the condition is reversible. Compared to other countries, the incidence in our country is less, but we do not have the requisite treatment protocol as the injection is very expensive," added Perunelli.
According to reports, he said, 25 among every one lakh people in China suffer from AS while in the US it is between 15 to 20, and in India it is seven.