[Ip-health] Oxfam, YP-CDN, UAEM and KEI: WHO takes big step to promote cancer treatment worldwide

Jarvis, Jordan Jordan_Jarvis at hms.harvard.edu
Mon May 11 13:42:29 PDT 2015

Oxfam, the Young Professionals Chronic Disease Network (YP-CDN), Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM) and Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) release joint statement:


WHO takes a big step to promote cancer treatment worldwide
(pdf attached)

MAY 11, 2015 -- Everyday, people around the world living with cancer go without life-saving treatment despite the fact that, for many of these conditions, effective treatments exist. The reality is that large populations in low-income and high-income countries alike are unable to gain access to these treatments at prices they can afford.

This will soon begin to change.

On May 8th the World Health Organization added 16 new anti-cancer medicines to the Model List of Essential Medicines (WHO EML). The list is used by governments worldwide as a guide to set their own policies on which medicines should be “essential” and by UN organizations and philanthropic groups as a global standard to guide drug donations. Essential medicines are those that should be available and affordable at all times.

Experts who gathered to update the WHO list affirmed that there is “urgent need to take action to promote equitable access and use of several new highly effective medicines, some of which are currently too costly even for high-income countries.”

"Innovative life-saving medications, diagnostics and treatments should not be luxury goods, affordable only to those with the ability to pay high prices based on their birth," said Merith Basey, Executive Director of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM).
In 2012, two teams of experts petitioned the WHO to include imatinib for the treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia and trastuzumab for the treatment of HER2+ breast cancer on the WHO EML. The consideration of these applications for two highly effective cancer treatments kickstarted a review process of the cancer section of the WHO EML.

“This is a watershed moment for the global NCD community, including patients and front-line providers. The move by the WHO helps re-define essentiality based on clinical need-- and not cost or cost-effectiveness alone,” said Dr. Sandeep Kishore of the Young Professionals Chronic Disease Network and co-author of the petitions to add cancer medicines to the WHO EML.

People living with cancer have celebrated the additions of life-saving cancer medications to the WHO EML as a basic human right. Manon Ress, with the Union for Affordable Cancer Treatment (UACT) offered, “As a breast cancer patient whose life was saved for the last four years thanks to access to trastuzumab, the addition of this drug on the WHO EML was wonderful news.  Twenty percent of breast cancer patients, those who are HER2+, could have had the same luck!”

The tension on whether to add key medications has largely centered on the debate of addressing individual needs versus population health-- that is, on a limited health budget, should the government assist high-cost breast cancer patients to receive life-saving treatment, or should the cost of that treatment be spent on interventions that benefit a larger population.

The addition of high-priced cancer medications -- along with patented medicines for hepatitis C and tuberculosis-- on the same day is reminiscent of decisive moves by the WHO to add anti-retrovirals (ARVs) for treatment of HIV/AIDS  in 2002, despite their cost. But, as advocates point out, there is still work to be done.

"The changes in the WHO list of essential medicines are welcome, but incremental, ”  says James Love, Director of Knowledge Ecology International. “The addition of patented medicines for HCV and TB is important, and now the WHO and governments will have to find ways to make them affordable.  For  cancer, the drugs they added should have been on the list years ago, and are at the end of their patent life, or already off patent. We were pleased that the EML now includes drugs like imatinib, for small client populations, is also important."

“Oxfam welcomes the WHO’s recent addition of 16 new cancer medications, as well as medicines for hepatitis C and tuberculosis, to its latest Model List of Essential Medicines," says Malini Aisola of Oxfam India. "Developing countries’ governments should take proactive steps to bring down prices of these medicines by enabling generic competition including through the use of TRIPS flexibilities.

For the petitions for trastuzumab and imatinib, as well as previous statements on this issue:

 *   http://www.who.int/selection_medicines/committees/expert/19/applications/trastuzumab/en/
 *   http://www.who.int/selection_medicines/committees/expert/19/applications/imatinib2/en/
 *   http://www.who.int/selection_medicines/committees/expert/20/applications/YPCDN_CancerReview.pdf?ua=1
 *   http://api.ning.com/files/LAl787uzrCBPI5cunZwEC33EbXghIwZ0jnObx0ZrrLuhyAjCCx5rOKIgrzxH6vJMIC2vg3Pyo3CZMA6yAzxh8qmtz7nZzt5W/WHABriefforDelegates_essentialcancermeds_YPCDN_KEI_UAEM.pdf
 *   http://www.who.int/selection_medicines/committees/expert/20/reviews/open-session_YCEMP-statement_18-apr-15.pdf?ua=1

For more information and to access the WHO release:

 *   www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2015/new-essential-medicines-list/en/<http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2015/new-essential-medicines-list/en/>
 *   www.who.int/medicines/publications/essentialmedicines/EML2015_8-May-15.pdf<http://www.who.int/medicines/publications/essentialmedicines/EML2015_8-May-15.pdf>

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