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Collaboration to boost access to cancer medicines in low- and middle-income countries

Published on 20/05/22 at 10:34am

Novartis, Roche, and other pharmaceutical companies have formed a coalition with global cancer organisations in an aim to get more oncology medications to low- and middle-income countries, Reuters has reported. The collaboration, the Access to Oncology Medicines (ATOM) Coalition, will aim to provide not only oncology drugs, but also support important training, diagnostics, and delivery.

The Access to Medicine Foundation, which has worked long-term in bringing better access to medicine, calling out the inequality in access to drugs and healthcare, will be one of the organisations collaborating in the group. The foundation, which has three main research programmes, is an independent non-profit, based in Amsterdam. Its three main research programmes are the Access to Medicine Index; Antimicrobial Resistance Benchmark; and the Access to Vaccines Index.

Currently, fewer than 50 of the cancer drugs on WHO’s essential medicines list are available in low- and middle-income countries, and with the disease burden continuing to grow, it is predicted that almost three in four cancer deaths will occur in these settings, in the next decade.

The WHO Model List of Essential Medicines and Model List of Essential medicines for Children are updated and published every two years, and define essential medicines as those that satisfy the priority health care needs of a population. These medicines are selected with consideration toward disease prevalence and public health relevance, efficacy and safety, and cost-effectiveness.

The first concrete step for the coalition will be the licensing of Novartis’s blood cancer drug nilotinib to the UN Medicines Patent Pool, which will allow generic manufacturers to access the know-how to produce the drug at scale, and at a lower cost.

This will be the first instance of a drug for a non-communicable disease entering the pool.

Ana Ovey

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