Cancer can have extreme social, emotional and economic consequences for patients and caregivers across the globe. In India specifically, the treatment of cancer is characterised by late detection and limited interventions due to lack of affordability, availability and accessibility of medicines, which leads to high rates of mortality.
According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), cancer is the leading causes of death in the world. In 2012, there were 8.2 million deaths due to cancer, with 70% of them in Africa, Asia, Central and South America.
According to the Indian Council for Medical Research, cancer-related deaths in India are projected to go up by 20% to over 8.8 lakh over the next four years. This means that India needs to be prepared for advanced medical technology and new and improved drugs to deal with the rising number of cases.
We believe that the only way to fight cancer (and other chronic ailments) is to ensure the quick availability of new and improved medicines at an affordable price.
Though there have been recent developments and improvements in the treatment of cancer worldwide, namely immuno-oncology (I-O) drugs and personalised medicine, the timely approval of drugs, affordability and thereby access to these cutting-edge treatments remains a concern in the country.
According to a report by Ernst and Young there are an estimated 120 PET-CT scanners installed in India, the majority of which are in metropolitan cities. While PET-CT scanners are essential for accurate diagnosis, staging and response monitoring of cancer, only a few cancer centres in India have advanced imaging technologies. In order to address the rising number of cancer cases, India needs to invest in tier 2 cities and focus on relatively disadvantaged states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Northeastern states, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, West Bengal, Uttarakhand to bolster cancer treatment in these places. Such an investment can help in developing the physical and human infrastructure that would help in providing effective cancer treatment in these states.
Considering the surge in cancer-associated mortality and morbidity in India, there is a compelling need for effective use of available drugs, and rapid inclusion of novel and life-saving oncology drugs approved in the developed markets such as the US and European Union. The early availability of such drugs can be facilitated by concerted efforts of the authorities and the industry, to ensure that Indian patients are included in relevant global clinical trials which comply with the highest standards. Fast-tracking product approvals for these cancer drugs (that are already approved in highly regulated markets) will be a huge boost to the patient community.
The majority of patients are not able to afford targeted drugs in cancer treatment that are required in advanced stages—these can average a baseline treatment of ₹4 lakhs to more targeted chemotherapy options of ₹15 lakhs. We believe that the only way to fight cancer (and other chronic ailments) is to ensure the quick availability of new and improved medicines at an affordable price.