• Cancer patients get P4.5-B free medicines

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    A patient support group has lauded Novartis Healthcare Philippines (NHP) for its unprecedented access program that helped underprivileged patients get free and discounted cancer treatments worth P4.5 billion.

    “For over a decade now, Novartis has helped extend the lives of thousands of Filipino patients by providing them with free and discounted cancer medications. This private company is not making any profit by helping us and is actually taking the cudgels for a basic human need such as access to health care, which is the role of the government. We owe Novartis a huge debt of gratitude,” said Rod N. Padua, president of Touched by Max (TBM) Philippines.

    Since 2002, the Novartis Oncology Access (NOA) has benefited over 2,500 socially disadvantaged Filipino cancer patients. To date, benefits provided by NOA to Filipino patients are valued at around P4.5 billion.

    Established in 2006, TBM Philippines is a non-profit support group for Filipino patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) and gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST). CML is a rare form of cancer in which the bone marrow makes too much abnormal white blood cells or leukemia cells. GIST is another rare type of cancer that usually develops in the stomach. TBM has 2,500 members, including many children and adolescents with CML or GIST.

    Padua, whose eight-year-old son was diagnosed with CML in 2006, delivered his message during the combined 11thGlivec International Patient Assistance Program (GIPAP) and 6th NOA Program anniversary celebration. The event was held recently at the Philippine Heart Center in Quezon City and attended by TBM Philippines members, NHP officials, and other program partners.

    Launched worldwide by Novartis in 2002, GIPAP is one of the most comprehensive and far-reaching cancer patient access programs ever implemented on a global scale. It is the first global direct-to-patient access program.

    Since 2002, GIPAP has provided Glivec at no cost to more than 50,000 patients in 81 countries. Glivec is the Novartis brand of Imatinib, a proven-effective treatment for several forms of cancer, including Philadelphia-positive (Ph+) CML, GIST, and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). GIPAP was launched in the Philippines in 2003.

    In 2008, to ensure the program’s long-term sustainability, Novartis broadened GIPAP and established the NOA Program. NOA is an innovative shared-contribution access program that helps underprivileged Filipino patients with cancer gain access to effective treatment.

    It works on a principle of partnership in which patients who have the capacity to contribute to the cost of their treatment help Novartis sustain the free treatment of patients who have no financial capability.

    When Nilotinib received local regulatory approval, it was also included in the NOA Program. Nilotinib is a Novartis product that is a proven-effective treatment for Ph+ CML in adult patients resistant or intolerant to Imatinib. NHP helps Filipino patients enrolled in NOA comply with treatment by donating the portion of the cost of their full-year Imatinib and Nilotinib treatment that they cannot afford to pay.

    “Cancer treatment puts a heavy financial burden on patients and their families, often pushing them to bankruptcy. Novartis is committed within its resources to help underprivileged Filipino patients gain access to proven-effective cancer treatment,” said Thomas Weigold, head, Asia & South Africa Novartis Oncology.

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