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    Irish Health Service Cuts Support for Gluten-free Products

    Jefferson Adams

    Celiac.com 10/19/2012 - Irish citizens with celiac disease will no longer be reimbursed for the gluten-free products they buy, under to a newly announced cutback to their health benefits.

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    Image: CC--Irish TypepadThe Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) says that new cuts to health benefits by the Irish health service (HSE) mean that many gluten-free products will no longer be reimbursed by the government, including products purchased by patients with medical cards, and those receiving long-term illness benefits.

    Gluten-free products that will no longer be covered include baking powder, breads, cornflakes, flour, muesli, pasta, pizza and porridge.

    People with celiac disease must eat gluten-free foods to avoid suffering from significant health problems. The IPU says this means that celiac patients, who rely on gluten-free products to maintain their health, will no longer receive financial support to help them cover the cost of these products.

    The HSE announced the controversial €130 million in cuts last spring, but made no mention that gluten-free products would be removed from the list of free items.

    The HSE announcement said only that 'certain products including' glucosamine, the obesity drug Orlistat, and Omega-3 Triglycerides to protect against heart disease, would be removed from the list of reimbursable products.

    In confirming the elimination of reimbursements for gluten-free products, an HSE spokesperson said that the agency was choosing to cut products for which there was 'doubt about their clinical efficacy.'

    What do you think? Are gluten-free products medically questionable for people with celiac disease? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below.



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    Guest ACurtis


    I have gluten intolerance, and because it's not celiac disease, as far as the allopathic community is concerned, there's nothing wrong with me. I don't have a disease, I don't get covered under medical insurance, I don't get to expense/deduct the gluten-free food I eat on my taxes, I don't get any special considerations at all. In fact, I get nada, and there is no follow-up care from my allopathic doctor, from a gastroenterologist, an endocrinologist, a neuropathic specialist...all of these "specialists," I am unable to see and/or be treated with because I have gluten intolerance and not Celiac disease. Both issues are treated the same way--no eating of gluten--but the two different classes of people are treated totally different by the allopathic health community.


    IN FACT, I have to pay EXTRA money to go and see a naturopath doctor or others in the alternative healthcare community because they are the ONLY ONES who will take someone complaining of/tested positive for gluten intolerance and help treat them. Now, how is THAT fair? I can't even use the healthcare that my family pays for to help me and my family members with our gluten intolerance!


    And yet, I have to eat gluten-free. I don't believe it's fair that a person with celiac disease gets help in buying their gluten-free food and other stuff, when I have the same need but don't get the same help. If you're not going to cover everyone, then no one should be covered.


    To treat celiac and gluten intolerance, you shouldn't EAT gluten-containing foods. The fact is, it's FOOD. Why should some people get free food, and others don't? Gluten intolerance affects us with the same 300+ issues that celiac sufferers also suffer from. Celiacs like to state that theirs is an auto immune issue, whereas gluten intolerance isn't. New research has shown that gluten intolerance, in its own way, affects those of us with it in many of the same ways that make us just as sick as a person with Celiac disease.


    I have to spend a HUGE CHUNK of our family's monthly budget on gluten-free, allergen-free (because we have other food intolerances and allergies beside gluten, just like many celiacs do), organic food for my family. No one does anything to help make buying groceries/our budget any easier on our family. However, by buying gluten-free, allergen-free, organic whole food, and a multitude of good, high-potency supplements/multivitamins, my family is healthier than we've ever been, and we never go to the clinic/doctor. We rarely get sick. So I'll happily spend that extra money on buying good food for my family.


    For those who are on low or fixed incomes, especially in Ireland, perhaps they can get together and see if a local food pantry can stock donated gluten-free items, like some of the pantries here in the U.S. do.


    I don't mean to come across as unfeeling, but the handouts at some point have to stop. People with celiac disease/auto immune issues already see their doctors for a whole host of follow-up care and for new diseases/issues that pop up because of celiac; asking for their food to be provided, too, is pushing it. Those of us with gluten intolerance can only dream of getting the same rights and the same consideration as those with celiac do from their doctors/health insurance.

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    They are coming up with any excuse to cut the budget. If it was not for that reason they would think of another one.


    I am in the US and we never had that help anyhow. I wish we did as my food budget it high and no I can't buy the premade stuff as that makes me sick as well.


    We are going to have a big budget cut here as well because of the deal Obama made with the right wing to get the money needed to run the government by borrowing.


    We are at the end of the money system but most don't know it yet due to technology. I only see more and more cutting till the riots are world wide.

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    While I agree that gluten intolerance should be treated the same under insurance, most of those that have celiac disease CANNOT eat any gluten otherwise it WILL lead to other problems, i.e. vitamin deficiency, diabetes or any number of other problems. This disease has been so misdiagnosed over the years in the U.S. and doctors still do not take it seriously. My daughter was diagnosed after years of problems - including disabling migraines. Doctors did no follow-up... a nurse called her. There was no counseling... nothing. We mostly have to buy products online because we cannot find them here.


    By the way, Barb, if you buy specific items listed as gluten-free and that is the only way you can get them (i.e. breads) if you keep a detailed list you can take them off your taxes. My daughter says it's not worth it. She tries to eat fresh veggies and fruits a lot... as you say, not much eating out.

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    In Australia there is no reimbursement - and, like in the US, gluten-free products are much more expensive - but I hate to hear comments like the one where there is "doubt about clinical efficacy" of the gluten-free diet. It's not as though coeliacs have much of a choice. After research, I chose to go with the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, which is cheaper than buying gluten-free alternatives to standard grain products, but can be very tough to follow. It's the principle of the thing. I'm tired of people suggesting that I'm just following a gluten-free diet to be contrary or trendy... it's my health and well being that is at stake. Boy, how I would like not to have to worry...

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    Guest Kevin Stewart


    My mother was from Dromanassig just outside Kenmare in Kerry, SW IRELAND. I had celiac disease as a child (b.1946 in Ottawa) but nobody apparently knew what it was. Heard stories that for a while it was touch and go whether I'd make it. Have no memory of the blood transfusions or frequesnt needles. The celiac disease eventually left but came back when I was in my late '40s. After two or three years of feeling poorly, just "dragging" myself everywhere, and catching everything going around, I went to the doctor. A lab test showed no iron in my system. He thought I must be bleeding internally and sent me for some very uncomfortable tests. No bleeding. Puzzled, he sent me to a specialist - an Egyptian guy who spent most of the time examining my fingernails. and said he thought it was celiac disease. A month later to his clinic for the scope down the throat. Finally, an answer- no villi left, just the nubs - it's celiac disease. Back to my doctor with the Report. He didn't know much about celiac disease, so he pulled out a huge medical dictionary, and said "let's learn about this together", and started reading. Besides his explanation of gluten and it's effect on villi, the thing that stands out most to me from this was that "cases concentrated in WESTERN IRELAND and Bangladesh". Took iron and folic acid pills for a while, and eventually got off them. Since? Read every label on store goods, question restaurants before ordering, and don't accept anything offered by people, even candy. I think I got food poisoning twelve years ago. That sure complicated things for me. BMs are unpredictable and can come quick. Not like the 5 or 6 in the first few years after the FP, but am still far from normal. I guess the problem is related to the celiac disease. I think of my life now as before and after the FP - it's had that big an affect. Any suggestions?


    I think that a LOT of people in Ireland are going to be paying much more to eat.

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    Guest Katherine


    I understand it can be expensive buying gluten-free analogs. But you don't have to. My food budget is no higher than it was when I was eating gluten. I eat rice, animal products, produce, and other naturally gluten-free products. You have to do what you have to do. We get no financial support here, and I don't expect any. We actually have a lot of options, if we don't limit ourselves to gluten substitutes.

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    It's a shame to take away reimbursement. I'm assuming it doesn't matter in Ireland whether it's gluten intolerance or celiac disease. The subsidy is gone, I would guess. I'm fortunate in that in the San Francisco south bay area with grocery resources for food alternatives. But yes, they do cost more. And I'm retired living on a fixed income now. Maybe one day we'll finally get universal health care in the U.S.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. He has covered Health News for Examiner.com, and provided health and medical content for Sharecare.com. His work has appeared in Antioch Review, Blue Mesa Review, CALIBAN, Hayden's Ferry Review, Huffington Post, the Mississippi Review, and Slate, among others.

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