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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Chance to Engage with France?

Chance to learn from FranceThere was an excellent series of articles, France: nation and world, published in The Lancet last year. The series looks at different aspects of the realization of the right to health for its citizens, and the role of France in the realm of global health. As the two founders of the IMAXI Cooperative, neither French by birth, are only alive today due to the excellence of the public health services of France, this Lancet series of papers rang a bell very close to home.

However, over the last 15 years we have witnessed the lack of participation of our comrades from Francophone communities in various global health governance bodies, including UN agencies and programmes. We have also rarely heard from the French government about how its excellent model of public health could be applied to other countries outside its ‘sphere of influence’ in its ex-colonies. Although IMAXI is a French registered NGO, our attempts to connect with the French delegates to discuss its role in global health have not been fruitful.

With the recent election of President Macron, and the anticipated success of his En Marche movement to win a majority in the French parliament next weekend, there is now a possibility that health activists can better engage with the new government in innovative and effective ways to advance our shared values, including realizing the right to health for everyone, everywhere.

Over the next few weeks, we will be re-posting some of the articles from the series in The Lancet. We hope they serve to both inform and to inspire others to join with us in a new ‘working’ group to explore ways in which we can turn this new political reality in France into more health justice for everyone. Contact us for more information.

We begin with the introduction to the series that provides both background and hope.

France: a philosophy for health
by Richard Horton and Audrey Ceschia

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