Cancer: Innovations have failed to lower costs

By Henry Opondo

Corruption and poor quality unregulated care are denying people to reap from the benefits of numerous innovations in cancer medicine, Prof Richard Sullivan, Director of the Institute of Cancer Policy and Affliate staff at the Kings College, UK said at the ongoing World Cancer Congress.
Speaking at a heated plenary session at the ongoing World Cancer Congress in Paris, France, Prof Richard noted that despite huge innovations in cancer medicine, “innovation for the sake of innovation has failed to imply better cancer for patients.”
He added that while the political leadership the world over would gloat and boast about innovations, on the ground, patients have yet to get affordable basic cancer care including surgery. “For example, medicine is still expensive, basic surgery is still way out of reach for the poor. Costs have stubbornly refused to reduce despite quoted innovation.” He noted that it costs the European Union 28 billion Euros to manage lung cancer, and asked how developing countries are expected to defeat cancer?
He noted that it is surprising that for countries in the developing world still dependent on OECD funding, cancer care is not part of the funding while all indications are that it should.
For example, in countries such as Ethiopia, while governments only commit 3% of its GDP to NCDs, managing cancer is a burden borne by patients. Neither the WHO nor donors want to commit to fund governments in the fight against cancer to help expand treatment of cancer. “A time comes when elites, civil societies and others stood and asked governments to do more than they have done on matters cancer,” he said.
The German Federal Minister of Health, Hermann Gröhe noted Cost of medicine is crucial in how cancer interventions are going to be designed in the future.
He confessed that the international commitments have over the years been concerned only with primary care. But there are discussions at the G7 to begin giving epidemiological capacity to developing countries and want to support 67 countries on capacity to manage such NCDs. “What the G7 however need is transparency both from the civil society and recipient governments on how the funds would be used,” added the Minister.
Speaking at the opening ceremony Monday, President Hollande said everyone has a role to play in the fight against cancer. He stressed that the disease is not an isolated concern, but instead represents a multisectoral battle.
Cancer is the world’s leading cause of premature death. Due to disparities in equity, the effects of the disease are felt hardest in low and middle-income countries, where the infrastructure for early detection and treatment can be sparse. Currently, over 14 million cancer cases are diagnosed globally per year and this is set to increase to over 19 million cases per year by the year 2025, highlighting the need for coordinated global action.
“Cancer is a worldwide epidemic. Its increasing prevalence and the growing number of preventable cases across the world is a real threat. The risk factors for cancer are shared with many other major non-communicable diseases; for instance, tobacco, poor nutrition, physical inactivity and obesity are also risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Health experts need to come together and stop viewing diseases as separate challenges – the goals, strategies and benefits of taking action overlap,” said Professor Sanchia Aranda, President-elect, Union for International Cancer Control (UICC).
The 2016 World Cancer Congress, organised by UICC, is being held in Paris until the 3 November. Under the theme ‘Mobilising action – Inspiring Change’ this standout meeting is bringing together over 3,000 cancer and health experts from 130 countries to discuss and to exchange best practices in cancer implementation science.

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