Bringing hope to cancer patients in Ukraine
Novel strategies enable Ukraine’s patients to access specialty treatment that they would otherwise not be able to afford in a heavily self-pay market
According to the WHO, Europe comprises only one eighth of the world’s population but has around one quarter of all cancer cases globally. While some countries have made progress in prevention and treatment, this is still not the case in much of Eastern Europe. In Ukraine, the lack of reimbursement schemes for healthcare means that many patients cannot afford to pay for specialty treatment. As a result, cancer is often regarded as a death sentence.
To address this, a multinational pharmaceutical company wanted to initiate a program to address patients’ financial difficulties to access treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma and systemic anaplastic large cell lymphoma – specifically two different drugs.
Axios has now implemented Patient Assistance Programs across Asia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe, where treatment costs are split between patients, the manufacturer and at times partners. Given the context in Ukraine, the pharmaceutical company appointed Axios to bring the country to its PAP portfolio. The program began in 2018 after a thorough analysis of the local market landscape.
Patients whose physician prescribes one of the drugs are asked to pay only what they can afford, and the remainder of the treatment cost is covered by the manufacturer. To determine how much help a patient needs, Axios utilizes its validated Patient Financial Eligibility Tool (PFET). Unlike other tools, PFET is customized to the local country context, providing a comprehensive financial assessment that considers not just the patient’s income but also their standard of living and assets. Through this approach, the pharmaceutical company is able to reach new population segments (with less ability to purchase), thus creating incremental revenues.
Based on the PFET results, Axios determines how many vials of treatment each patient needs to purchase and what will be dispensed free of charge (FOC). During the process, Axios follows up with patients and physicians on a regular basis, trains pharmacy staff on how to dispense the medications, and handles drug logistics. In addition, Axios liaises with a Charity Fund and a local NGO for product supply support and reporting to government authorities.
Since its launch, more than 80 patients have enrolled in the program. Most referred patients accept to undergo the financial assessment, particularly if they need one of the drugs that is considered life-saving and for many a last hope. Very few of the enrolled patients were able to afford more than one treatment vial, which costs approximately $ 4,500 USD.
Unlike simple discount schemes, using the innovative PFET tool enables poorer patients to complete their course of treatment even if they cannot afford to pay for it in full. This helps them get the most medical benefit out of their treatment. In return, it enables the manufacturer a sustainable growth in emerging markets by reaching a larger number of patients, rather than leaving behind those who cannot afford even discounted prices. Having benefited many patients who had little hope to recover, the program now aims to include other innovative, specialty care medicines.