When the World Health Organisation added 16 new anti-cancer medicines to the model list of essential medicines (WHO EML) on May 8, a group of Young Professionals’ Chronic Disease Network headed by Indian-origin US resident Sandeep Kishore was elated.
The WHO had created a new global standard for cancer treatment and it was a watershed moment for this network group with 300 members – all below 40 years – from 41 countries and 170 organisations. “We hope this will create new national standards – expectations – for treatments. Cancer treatment is not just for the rich. By deeming these medicines as essential, it now becomes the responsibility of governments and international communities to provide these medications to patients at affordable prices,” Kishore, who hails from Hyderabad, told The Indian Express.
Kishore, who has helped redefine global health policy, had in 2007 spearheaded the addition of cholesterol-lowering statin to the list, petitioned WHO to include aproton pump inhibitor and a modern beta blocker and now is the co author of the petitions to add cancer medicines to the WHO list.
In 2012, two teams of experts petitioned the WHO to include imatinib for the treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) and trastuzumab for the treatment of HER2+ breast cancer on the WHO EML. The consideration of these applications for two highly effective cancer treatments initiated a review process of the cancer section of the WHO EML.
For imatinib, brand name Gleevec, five-year survival rates for CML increased by over 35 per cent. The number of patients needed to be treated to see a complete cytogenetic response (a key marker for CML treatment) was less than two, which made this a good treatment, Kishore explained. The drug had been used in South Africa, Mexico, China and India.
India was one of the first countries to add imatinib to India’s Essential Medicines List in 2011 and we cited this to demonstrate how important and life-saving this medicine actually was for selected-cancer patients, Kishore pointed out.
For trastuzumab, we were tackling breast cancer, an urgent global health priority. India has been a crucial supporter and it is important to note that anyone in the world can petition the WHO to add or delete a medicine from the essential medicines list, Kishore said.
The organisations supporting this petition were Young Professionals Chronic Disease Network (YP-CDN), Knowledge Ecology International (KEI), University of California, San Francisco, Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM), Third World Network (TWN). In New Delhi, Kalyani Menon-Sen was the coordinator of the campaign, while Peter Dhillon, an epidemiologist, based with the Public Health Foundation of India, has been a crucial supporter.ens
(With ENS inputs)