Coalition against cancer aims to improve access to medicines in the poorest countries


LONDON, May 20 (Reuters) – Pharmaceutical companies such as Novartis (NOVN.S) and Roche (ROG.S) have joined global cancer organizations in an alliance aimed at providing more oncology drugs to countries the poorest.

Currently, less than 50% of cancer medicines on the World Health Organization (WHO) Essential Medicines List are available in low- and middle-income countries, and the burden of disease is increasing. If nothing is done, nearly three out of four cancer deaths are expected to occur in these settings over the next decade.

As part of the first concrete step of the Coalition for Access to Oncology Medicines (ATOM), Novartis has licensed its blood cancer drug, nilotinib, to the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) of United Nations, allowing generic manufacturers to access the know-how to produce the drug on a scale and at a lower cost.

Join now for FREE unlimited access to


Previously, the technology behind HIV and COVID-19 drugs was shared in this way, but nilotinib is the first drug for a non-communicable disease in the pool, ATOM said.

He has just one year left on his patent, but Novartis global health chief Lutz Hegemann said generic makers have signaled it’s still worth the wait.

“I think in a year there are a lot of things you can try to test and that’s not the only drug we would consider offering,” he said in an interview.

The coalition’s goal is not just to supply the drugs, but also to support training, diagnosis and delivery to get them to patients, said the International Union Against Cancer – a key partner.

The coalition is starting with $32 million from the private sector and will initially focus on capacity building activities in ten low- and middle-income countries, building on existing initiatives.

The Access to Medicine Foundation, which has long spoken out against unequal access to medicine and care, will work with the group.

“You have some of the best minds… people with deep pockets, shelves full of drugs… We will be monitoring progress on how this consortium delivers,” said Jayasree Iyer, director of the foundation.

Join now for FREE unlimited access to


Reporting by Jennifer Rigby Editing by Mark Potter

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


Comments are closed.