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WHO South East Asia J Public Health. 2018 Sep;7(2):62-66. doi: 10.4103/2224-3151.239415.

Approaches to improving access to essential cancer medicines in the WHO South-East Asia Region.

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Independent consultant, New Delhi, India.
World Health Organization Regional Office for South-East Asia, New Delhi, India.


The high cancer burden in the World Health Organization (WHO) South-East Asia Region represents not only a significant cause of death, disability and suffering but also a major threat to development. In 2015, the need for equitable access to cancer treatments was underscored by the addition of 16 cancer drugs to the 19th WHO model list of essential medicines, including three high-cost medicines. This paper explores strategies to improve access, including - but not limited to - managing costs through regional cooperation; coordinated procurement mechanisms; price controls; differential pricing; and licensing agreements. The composition of the region, with small and large pharmaceutical markets with a range of manufacturing capacities and supply-chain issues, offers a unique frame of comparison and consideration for access issues. Different approaches are needed that are tailored to specific country situations. However, in the absence of global collaborative funding mechanisms, the region can advocate now, with one voice, for regional action to improve the affordability and availability of essential cancer medicines and align national cancer-control strategies to leverage regional strengths. Delays will lead to more premature cancer deaths and more households in the WHO South-East Asia Region being impoverished through out-of-pocket payments for cancer medicines.


South-East Asia; World Health Organization; access to health care; antineoplastic drugs; national health policy

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