By AVA TURNQUEST Tribune Staff Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org FOUR more chronic diseases have been added to the National Drug Prescription Plan. Chief pharmacist Dr Brenna Brown-Turnquest confirmed yesterday that more than 17,000 Bahamians are enrolled in the plan, which funds an estimated $85,000 worth of prescriptions per week. In addition to new medication, Dr Brown-Turnquest said two diseases already included under the plan also will be expanded. Eligible persons can now apply for treatment for epilepsy, sickle cell anemia, thyroid disorders, and benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH). "We're also expanding two diseases," Dr Brown-Turnquest said. "Ischaemic heart disease has been changed to just Ischemia to include patients who had a stroke or peripheral artery disease. We're also expanding psychiatric diseases," she said. "We're combining major depression and psychosis into one category, psychiatric illnesses. This will allow for patients that have any psychiatric diagnosis to access medication available under the plan." New medications concern treatment for diabetes, cholesterol and hypertension. The changes will increase the plan's spending by $800,000 per year, according to Dr Brown-Turnquest. She said: "The expansions were made because of prevalence, requests from the community, physicians and also civic groups. For the treatments for the diseases, some of them there have been changes to the treatment and we wanted to make sure it was readily available to patients." In response to alarming data from the Ministry of Health and private insurance companies indicating that one in three Bahamians suffers from one or more chronic illnesses, NIB launched the plan in September 2010. Chronic ailments also covered by the plan include arthritis, asthma, breast cancer, diabetes, glaucoma, high cholesterol, hypertension, and prostate cancer. The plan initially provided prescription drugs and associated medical supplies free of charge to Bahamians in four categories - NIB pensioners, NIB invalids, children, and Bahamians over 65 years. Seven new groups were added early last year. These include: Indigent persons; staff of Her Majesty's Prison and the Industrial Schools; members of the Royal Bahamas Police Force and Royal Bahamas Defence Force; officers employed in the public service; persons receiving ante-natal care, care connected with child birth, post natal care or any other medical care associated with pregnancy; and persons in receipt of disablement benefit assessed at 100 per cent under the National Insurance (Benefit and Assistance) Regulations. Eligible persons may apply to activate membership in the Drug Plan by completing application forms available at local offices of the NIB, doctors' offices, government and private clinics and most pharmacies. Application forms can also be downloaded from www.nibdrugplan.com.