By Eric Ojo, Abuja
Things are looking up for cancer patients in sub-Sahara Africa and Asia as American Cancer Society (ACS) in collaboration with the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) have signed agreements with three pharmaceutical companies to expand access to 20 life-saving cancer treatments in 26 countries across both continents.
The ACS and CHAI jointly announced on Monday that the partnership agreements have been signed with Pfer, Novertis and Mylan for the implementation of the initiative. Purchasers are expected to save an average of 59 percent for medicines procured through the agreements.
The medications included in the agreements cover recommended regimens for 27 types of cancer and enable complete chemotherapy regimens for the three cancers that cause the most deaths in Africa – breast, cervical, and prostate. Moreover, these cancers are highly treatable and account for 38 percent of cancers in the countries covered in the agreements.
The new agreements include both chemotherapies and endocrine the rapies aligned to evidence-based guidelines harmonized for sub-Saharan Africa, and expand access to additional formulations, including those essential for treating childhood cancer.
The new initiative will expand access to the priority medications and formulations in the agreements to additional countries. All of the medications included in the agreements meet the quality standards set by a stringent regulatory authority such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
The medicines will be available for purchase at newly and independently negotiated prices in the designated countries, and the companies have committed to monitoring the impact of their respective agreements with CHAI.
The Co-chair, African Cancer Coalition and former Health Minister of Nigeria, Professor Isaac Adewole said the agreements build on those announced in 2017 that have already delivered substantial savings and increased treatment availability in several countries, including Nigeria.
“With the rapidly growing burden of cancer in Africa, it is crucial that we improve and expand access to high-quality, affordable treatment. By targeting the treatment needed for the cancers that cause the most deaths, these new agreements will help us to improve on quality of lives and close the mortality gap for Africans with cancer”, he added.
Sub-Saharan Africa’s cancer burden is significant and growing. In 2018, there were an estimated 811,000 new cases of cancer and 534,000 deaths from cancer in the region. Moreover, cancer patients in the region are twice as likely to die as those in the United States, often due to late diagnosis and lack of access to treatment.
Based on population aging alone, annual cancer deaths in sub-Saharan Africa are projected to almost double by 2030. The new agreements reach 23 countries in Africa, covering 74 percent of the annual cancer cases.
“With cancer cases increasing at such a rapid rate in sub-Saharan Africa, access to affordable cancer treatment that meets the quality standards set by a stringent regulatory authority is imperative,” said William G. Cance, MD FACS, Chief Medical and Scientific Officer of ACS.
He also noted the collaboration has the potential to drastically impact access to care and save countless lives.
Speaking in a similar vein, the Chief Executive Officer of CHAI, Dr. lain Barton said the collaboration is a significant step in delivering high-quality cancer treatment to more patients, bringing “us closer to equitable cancer treatment for all people”.
“While we have made strides in increasing access to lifesaving cancer treatments in sub-Saharan Africa over the last several years, there is much more work to be done”, he stressed.
The new Cancer Access Partnership is an initiative of Allied Against Cancer and an expansion of the Chemotherapy Access Partnership. ACS and CHAI began working together in 2015 to improve care and treatment of cancer in sub-Saharan Africa.
The team worked with governments and cancer treatment institutions to address market inefficiencies, improve supply chains, and increase procurement to ensure quality medications were available at affordable prices.
Over the years, the collaboration has shown that access to high-quality cancer treatments can be expanded in a sustainable way. In 2017, Allied Against Cancer members ACS and CHAI announced agreements with Pfizer and Cipla to expand access to 16 essential cancer treatment medications in six countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
The market access agreements secured competitive prices, allowing these governments to realize substantial savings and improve the quality and quantity of treatment available.
As a result of the agreements, several African governments and hospitals increased their commitment to procuring necessary cancer medicines by using the cost savings to increase the volumes of medicines procured, setting up innovative systems to supply high-quality cancer medications, and increasing budgets for cancer care and treatment.
Countries that accessed products through the agreements saved an average of 56 percent. As a result, patients have new levels of access to quality chemotherapies in nearly all of the countries included in the original agreements. Three new countries were added in November 2019.
While commending the initiative, Pfizer Cluster Lead for sub-Saharan Africa and Country Manager, South Africa, Rhulani Nhlaniki noted that since entering into partnership with CHAI and ACS in 2017, they have seen the positive impact that sustainable access to quality, affordable cancer medicines can have on patients in vulnerable communities in Africa.
“We remain committed to this model that helps to reduce the overwhelming burden on patients and healthcare systems, and we are pleased to be able to expand our chemotherapy offerings under the program to better serve the needs of patients”, he added.
Also in his remarks, Head of Novartis sub-Saharan Africa, Racey Muchilwa said Novartis is reimagining medicine and access to healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa with the patient at the center of everything the are doing.
Mylan’s President, India and Emerging Markets, Rakesh Bamzai also acknowledged that the agreement is an important step towards providing life-saving medicines to more cancer patients across Africa, adding that Mylan is proud to join CHAI, ACS and the important group of industry stakeholders to help expand access to critical medicines for oncology patients.
“Having personally seen the growing toll cancer takes on the patients and many affected families in Africa, I am very excited about this collaboration of multiple stakeholders to dramatically improve access to cancer medicines in many countries”, she added.
She further explained that Mylan has a long-standing commitment to support those impacted by non-communicable diseases, including cancer, which significantly impact low-and middle-income countries.
“We look forward to continuing to do our part by expanding access to treatment through initiatives like the Cancer Access Partnership and working with all involved in the healthcare system to help serve the community”, she stressed.
The market access agreements are part of a broader effort to improve access to quality cancer care in Africa. In 2019, ACS, CHAI, the African Cancer Coalition, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), and IBM joined to form Allied Against Cancer.
The coalition, according to a statement made available to Metro Daily Nigeria, is leveraging the strengths of each organization to connect with and empower the African oncology community to deliver high-quality cancer care. It is also working to pursue additional market-based collaborations to increase access to cancer medicines in the region.
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