Increasing Cancer Treatment Access in Africa
Life-saving cancer drug enters the Kenyan market through an innovative cost-sharing scheme that improves access for those who cannot afford it
According to the WHO, each year cancer causes around 7.9 million deaths worldwide– of which close to 70% are now occurring in the developing world. It ranks third as a cause of death in Kenya, with 350,000 cancer-related deaths reported in 2014 alone.
However, only about 5% of the global resources spent on cancer are deployed in low- and middle-income countries. The cost of newer cancer therapies and limited healthcare infrastructure in these regions are key barriers to cancer diagnosis and care.
In this context, a multinational pharmaceutical company wanted to initiate an innovative program to address patients’ financial difficulties to access treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma and systemic anaplastic large cell lymphoma.
A multinational pharmaceutical company appointed Axios to create a Patient Assistance Program in Kenya, and the program began in 2018 with a life-saving drug which was the first of its kind in the country.
Although the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) helps cancer patients, the amount given is limited and applies not only to medications but also to testing and physician consultations. This means that many patients, although insured, still have to co-pay for their full treatment. Through the program, patients who are prescribed the drug either receive a voucher to cover this co-pay amount or are asked to pay only what they can afford. The remainder of the cost is covered by the manufacturer.
To determine how much help a patient needs, Axios uses its validated Patient Financial Eligibility Tool (PFET). Unlike other tools, PFET is customized to the local country context and considers not just the patient’s income but also their standard of living and assets. It is an innovative approach to financial assessment in Africa.
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) in addition to any vouchers given when the NHIF does not cover a full treatment vial. During the process, Axios follows up with patients and physicians on a regular basis, trains pharmacy staff to dispense the supported medications, and handles drug logistics.
Less than a year since its launch, the program has achieved more referrals than those initially targeted. Many enrolled patients report a better quality of life and the ability to return to work.
The program eliminates most out-of-pocket costs of patients who are either uninsured or unable to cover the NHIF co-pay. In return, the pharmaceutical company is able to reach more patients rather than leaving behind those who cannot afford even discounted prices.
As the Kenyan program expands beyond Nairobi, the public healthcare sector has expressed willingness to discuss its wider implementation. In the meantime, Axios and the manufacturer are setting up the process to implement the program in Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania in order to bring this innovative drug to equally high-burdened areas in Africa.