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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FCGH meets License to Heal

License to HealAn interesting initiative from the Netherlands has come to our attention. It’s called License to Heal, and its manifesto touches upon many key elements of the Framework Convention on Global Health (FCGH), the proposed international treaty presently gathering support across a wide array of civil society organizations. Both License to Heal and the FCGH see having a legal framework to assure universal access to medicines as imperative, and as a ‘do-able’ challenge. It would seem that these two NGOs should meet, share, and agree to collaborate — for access to medicines for all.

Below is some information from the License to Heal website. It’s worth having a visit. They also can be followed on twitter,  although reading some Dutch may be useful.
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“We need to design a sustainable business model to ensure medication is available for all, for a fair price!”. This is a statement from the manifesto License to Heal that is written by eight political youth parties in the Netherlands.

Together they ask their national government to make legislation that directs pharmaceutical companies to be transparent about their prices and determine their prices conform a limited profit margin. A wonderful initiative in which the political youth parties showed leadership by setting aside their political differences and come to a shared vision on this important topic.

The cooperating Political Youth Organisations are convinced that drugs and other medical products should be accessible to everyone. We feel supported in this matter by several international treaties, in which the universal right to health has been recorded. To realise general accessibility, all stakeholders in the development of medicine need to take their social responsibility. Since stakeholders cannot or will not take this responsibility in the current system, the government needs to set a framework.

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