The World Health Organization (WHO) and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital have announced plans to establish a platform that will dramatically increase access to childhood cancer medicines around the world.
The Global Platform for Access to Childhood Cancer Medicines, the first of its kind, will provide an uninterrupted supply of quality-assured childhood cancer medicines to low- and middle-income countries.
As part of the partnership, St. Jude is making a six-year, US$ 200 million investments to launch the platform, which will provide medicines at no cost to countries participating in the pilot phase. This is the largest financial commitment for a global effort in childhood cancer medicines to date, according to the WHO.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General underscored that close to nine in ten children with cancer live in low- and middle-income countries.
“Survival in these countries is less than 30%, compared with 80% in high-income countries. This new platform, which builds on the success of the Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer launched with St. Jude in 2018, will help redress this unacceptable imbalance and give hope to many thousands of parents faced with the devastating reality of a child with cancer”.Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
Need for uninterrupted cancer medicines for children
The WHO stated in a release announcing the partnership that each year, an estimated 400,000 children worldwide develop cancer. The majority of children living in low- and middle-income countries are unable to consistently obtain or afford cancer medicines. As a result, nearly 100,000 children die each year, the WHO lamented.
The new platform aims to provide safe and effective cancer medicines to approximately 120,000 children between 2022 and 2027, with the expectation to scale up in future years. This platform will provide end-to-end support by consolidating global demand to shape the market, assisting countries with the selection of medicines and also developing treatment standards. The platform will also enable the building of information systems to track that effective care is being provided and to drive innovation.
James R. Downing, President and CEO of St. Jude stated that St. Jude was founded on the mission to advance research and treatment of childhood cancer and other catastrophic pediatric diseases.
“Nearly 60 years later, we stand with the World Health Organization, partner organizations and our Global Alliance collaborators to expand that promise for children worldwide. With this platform, we are building the infrastructure to ensure that children everywhere have access to safe cancer medicines”.James R. Downing
New platform to address medicine availability
The WHO underscored that this innovative approach will open a new chapter in access to cancer care by addressing medicine availability in low- and middle-income countries that is often complicated by higher prices, interruptions in supply and out-of-pocket expenditures that result in financial hardship.
According to a WHO Non-Communicable Disease Country Capacity survey published in 2020, only 29% of low-income countries report that cancer medicines are generally available to their populations compared to 96% of high-income countries.
By consolidating the needs of children with cancer globally, the new platform will curtail the purchasing of sub-standard and falsified medicines that results from unauthorized purchases and the limited capacity of national regulatory authorities, the WHO assured.
Carlos Rodriguez-Galindo, Executive Vice President and Chair of the St. Jude Department of Global Pediatric Medicine and director of St. Jude Global said “unless we address the shortage and poor quality of cancer medicines in many parts of the world, there are very few options to cure these children”.
Rodriguez-Galindo stated that health-care providers must have access to a reliable source of cancer medicines that constitute the current standard of care. St. Jude St. Jude St. Jude St. Jude