By DOH JAMES SONKEY
Cancer patients in Africa and Asia will henceforth benefit from high quality and affordable treatment thanks to an agreement reached last June 29, 2020 by the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) with pharmaceutical companies; Pfizer, Novartis, and Mylan. The Cancer Access Partnership expected to result in a 59% savings on procured cancer medicines will expand access to 20 lifesaving cancer treatments in 26 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.
Speaking at the occasion, the co-chair of the African Cancer Coalition and former Health Minister of Nigeria, Professor Isaac Adewole stressed that “With the rapidly growing burden of cancer in Africa, it is crucial that we improve and expand access to high-quality, affordable treatment. These agreements build on those announced in 2017 that have already delivered substantial savings and increased treatment availability in several countries, including Nigeria. 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.”
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). These cancers are highly treatable and account for 38% of cancers in the countries covered in the agreements. The new agreements include both chemotherapies and endocrine therapies aligned to evidence-based guidelines harmonised for sub-Saharan Africa, and expand access to additional formulations, including those essential for treating childhood cancer.
On his part, the Chief Medical and Scientific Officer of the American Cancer Society, William G. Cance, MD FACS underlined that “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. This collaboration has the potential to drastically impact access to care and save countless lives.”
The 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 we do. This agreement is an important step to provide lifesaving medicines to more cancer patients across Africa. 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.”
Health professionals say Sub-Saharan Africa’s cancer burden is significant and growing, given that in 2018 there were an estimated 811,000 new cases of cancer and 534,000 deaths from cancer in the region. Cancer patients in sub-Saharan Africa 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% of the annual cancer cases.