Childhood Cancer Gets Massive Cash Investment to Boost Global Access to Medicine
WHO and St Jude Research’s Hospital announce the establishment of a Global Platform for Access to Childhood Cancer Medicines.

A $200 million dollar investment – the largest financial commitment to addressing childhood cancer ever – has been announced by the World Health Organization (WHO) and US-based St Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

The Global Platform for Access to Childhood Cancer Medicines will provide an uninterrupted supply of quality-assured cancer medicines to low- and middle-income countries. 

St Jude will be making a six-year, $200 million investment to launch the platform, which will provide medicines at no cost to countries participating in its pilot phase. 

Nearly nine in ten children with cancer live in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC). In addition, an estimated 400,000 children worldwide develop cancer –  a majority living in LMIC. 

These children are often unable to consistently obtain or afford cancer medicines, leaving nearly 100,000 children to die each year. 

“Survival in these countries is less than 30%, compared with 80% in high-income countries,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.  

“This new platform will help redress this unacceptable imbalance and give hope to many thousands of patients faced with the devastating reality of a child with cancer.” 

Six-year platform to reach 120,000 children 

The new platform aims to provide safe and effective cancer medicines to approximately 120,000 children between 2022 and 2027, with the expectation to scale up in the future.

In addition to providing end-to-end support for these medicines, consolidating the needs of children with cancer globally, the platform will also be: assisting countries with the selection of medicines; developing treatment standards; and building information systems that track and ensure effective care is being provided.  

“With this platform, we are building the infrastructure to ensure that children everywhere have access to safe cancer medicines,” said President and CEO of St Jude James R. Downing. 

WHO and St Jude’s collaborated back in 2018, when St Jude became the first WHO Collaborating Centre for Childhood Cancer. The research hospital committed more than $15 million for the Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer. 

The Initiative supports more than 50 governments to build and sustain local cancer programs – with the goal to increase cancer survival to 60% by 2030. This goal will be further supported by the newly announced platform.

High prices of medicines complicate availability

chilldhood cancer
Nearly 100,000 children die from cancer each year, as they are unable to obtain consistent and affordable medicine.

While addressing how medicine availability in LMICs is complicated by higher prices, the platform will also curtail the purchase of substandard and falsified medicines resulting from unauthorized purchases and the limited control of national regulatory agencies. 

Only 29% of low-income countries report that cancer medicines are readily available to their populations in comparison to 96% of high-income countries, according to a WHO Noncommunicable Disease Country Capacity survey published in 2020. 

“Unless we address the shortage and poor quality of cancer medicines in many parts of the world, there are very few options to cure these children,” said Carolos Rodriguez-Galino, executive vice president and chair of the St. Jude Department of Global Pediatric Medicine. 

“Health-care providers must have access to a reliable source of cancer medicines that constitute the current standard of care,” he added. 

Twelve countries to participate in pilot phase 

Twelve countries will be participating in the initial two-year pilot phase, where medicines will be distributed through a process involving governments, cancer centers, and NGOs that are already active in providing cancer care.

While discussions are currently underway to determine which countries will participate in this phase, it is anticipated that by the end of 2027, 50 countries will receive childhood cancer medicines through this platform. 

“Cancer should not be a death sentence, no matter where a child lives. By developing this platform, St Jude is helping families get access to lifesaving medicines for their children.”

Image Credits: WHO.

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