According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) study, low and middle income countries accounted for 57% of the 14-million people diagnosed with cancer worldwide in 2012, of which 65% of these cases resulted in death. These alarming statistics point to the need to increase access to affordable cancer treatment in South Africa.
This is according to Paul Miller, CEO of Medpro Pharmaceutica (Pty) Ltd – a subsidiary company of Cipla Medpro, who says that according to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) latest statistics, 8.2 million people died of cancer in 2012 and about 47,000 of these deaths occurred in South Africa, with cancers of the lung, oesophagus, breast and prostate being among the most common forms of cancer in the country.
In light of World Cancer Awareness Day on the 4th of February 2015, Miller says that in order to remedy the high cancer related death rate, the South African pharmaceutical industry, together with Government, must move collectively towards providing cancer patients with more affordable, quality medication. “Greater access to generic cancer medication may be a viable solution, since the aggressive pricing of generic drugs often forces pharmaceuticals across the board to lower its costs in order to remain competitive.”
In some cases cancer patients pay up to twice as much for cancer treatment when a non-generic medicine is used and often patients are not aware that a cost-effective alternative exists, he says.
Miller explains that generic drugs have to undergo the same stringent Medicine Control Council (MCC) tests that originators must withstand in order to be sold. “This ensures the generic drugs have met the same rigid standards as the original drug with regards to dosage form, safety, strength, route of administration, quality, and intended use.”
Another field that is fast becoming increasingly important for cost saving – with the investment in local development as well as in-licensing – is biosimilars or biogenerics, which are highly similar versions of the originator drug and made from living micro-organisms found in plant or animal cells. “The main rationale for using biosimilar drugs, rather than the original version, is for cost saving purposes and the development of biosimilars can greatly alleviate pressure for medical aids and patients alike.”
Miller says that since the launch of the company’s oncology division in 2011, Cipla has developed or provided access to 13 MCC approved generic products aimed at treating a wide range of solid and haematological tumours and that the pharmaceutical company plans to invest significantly in the development of biosimilars in future.
“For the last two years, Cipla Medpro Oncology has been aiming to revolutionise the landscape of oncology treatment costs in the country by making medicine affordable, and thereby improving healthcare for all South Africans,” concludes Miller.
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