Cancer Patients Before Profits

Patients before ProfitsTime for cancer patients to come before corporate profits.  By Manon Ress

On 26th Of May, the World Health Assembly adopted the long debated Resolution on Cancer Prevention and Control. This is an important step towards supporting countries to address this disease in order to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

Cancers are a leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide, with approximately 14 million new cases and 8.2 million cancer-related deaths in 2012, 70% of which occurred in low and middle income countries. These numbers are expected to increase as society ages and lifestyles change, particularly in developing countries. The societal cost, as measured by human potential loss and economic cost, is high.

In addition to prevention efforts, addressing cancer requires access to prevention and treatment but this goal cannot be achieved under the existing policies that shape the price of medicines.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women both in developed and developing countries. Women with positive gene “human epidermal growth factor receptor 2” (HER2) face serious challenges related to the high prices of two effective medicines.

Trastuzumab is marketed by Roche under the brand name Herceptin. In South Africa, a 12-month course of trastuzumab costs approximately ZAR 516,700 ($38,000) – or around 5 times the country’s average household income. Given its unaffordability, trastuzumab is not available in South Africa’s public health sector where more than 80 percent of the country’s population seek care. Moreover, high co-payments required by medical insurers to access treatment are simply unaffordable for many who use the private sector”. (See also this post)

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Access to Medicines Now!

Access to MedicinesACCESS TO MEDICINES IS A BASIC HUMAN RIGHT

On International Women’s Day (Wednesday 8th March 2017) this letter was issued by the Tobeka Daki Campaign for Access to Trastuzumab to the Human Rights Council, as they convened a panel discussion on access to medicines in the context of the right to health.
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Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein,
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Geneva, Switzerland

Dear High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein,

We are writing to you from the Tobeka Daki Campaign for Access to Trastuzumab in South Africa on the occasion of International Women’s Day to highlight the gross injustice faced by women across the globe in many low and middle income countries who cannot access lifesaving cancer treatments due to the exorbitant pricing of the pharmaceutical industry.

The Tobeka Daki Campaign launched a month ago on 7th February 2017. The campaign is in loving memory of a fearless activist who lead the struggle to ensure access to breast cancer treatment for women in South Africa. Despite being prescribed trastuzumab, a WHO essential medicine for the treatment of HER2+ breast cancer, Tobeka was never able to access the treatment due to its high cost. In South Africa, the annual price charged by Swiss multinational company Roche in the private sector is around US$ 38,365. The few public facilities which can access trastuzumab do so at a lower price of around US$ 15,735 per year. But, health economists have shown that a year’s worth of trastuzumab can be produced and sold for only US$ 240, a price that includes a 50% increase above the cost of production for profit.

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