The World Health Organization (WHO) and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital on Monday announced plans to create a platform that will dramatically increase access to childhood cancer drugs 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. St. Jude is investing $200 million over six years to launch the platform, which will provide free drugs to countries participating in the pilot phase. This is the largest financial commitment to a global childhood cancer drug effort to date.
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “Almost nine out of ten children with cancer live in low- and middle-income countries. The survival rate in these countries is less than 30%, compared to 80% in high-income countries. This new platform, which builds on the success of the Global Childhood Cancer Initiative launched with St. Jude in 2018, will help correct this unacceptable imbalance and give hope to many thousands of parents facing the devastating reality of a child with cancer. Each year, approximately 400,000 children around the world develop cancer. The majority of children living in low- and middle-income countries are unable to obtain or regularly purchase cancer drugs. As a result, nearly 100,000 children die every year.
The new platform aims to deliver safe and effective cancer drugs to around 120,000 children between 2022 and 2027, with the hope of expanding in the years to come. This platform will provide end-to-end support ̶ consolidating global demand to shape the market; assist countries in drug selection; developing treatment standards; and building information systems to track the effectiveness of care provided and drive innovation. St. Jude President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr. James R. Downing, said, “St. Jude was founded with a mission to advance the research and treatment of childhood cancer and other cancers. catastrophic pediatric diseases. Almost 60 years later, we stand with the World Health Organization, partner organizations and our Global Alliance collaborators to extend this promise to children around the world. With this platform, we are building the infrastructure to ensure that children around the world have access to safe cancer drugs.
This innovative approach will open a new chapter in access to cancer care by addressing the availability of medicines in low- and middle-income countries, which is often complicated by higher prices, supply disruptions and expenses. direct causes of financial hardship.
According to a WHO country capacity survey on noncommunicable diseases published in 2020, only 29% of low-income countries report that cancer drugs are generally available to their population, compared to 96% of high-income countries. . By consolidating the needs of children with cancer globally, the new platform will reduce the purchase of substandard and falsified medicines resulting from unauthorized purchases and the limited capacity of national regulatory authorities.
Executive Vice President and Chairman of St. Jude’s Department of Global Pediatric Medicine and Director of St. Jude Global, Carlos Rodriguez-Galindo, said, “Unless we address the shortage and poor quality of Cancer drugs in many parts of the world are very few options for curing these children.
“Health care providers need access to a reliable source of cancer drugs that are the current standard of care. At St. Jude, together with our co-founding partners at WHO and many vital partners around the world, we can help achieve this goal.
Director of the Department of Non-Communicable Diseases at WHO, Dr Bente Mikkelsen, said: “WHO, St Jude and partners will spare no effort to ensure that children’s access to cancer medicines is on the right track. way. WHO is on the ground, working with governments to provide support and services to ensure that all children have access to the best possible cancer treatment.
During an initial two-year pilot phase, drugs will be procured and distributed in 12 countries through a process involving governments, cancer centers and nongovernmental organizations already active in providing cancer care. . Discussions are already underway with governments to determine which countries will participate in this pilot phase. By the end of 2027, 50 countries are expected to receive childhood cancer drugs through the platform.
International Society of Pediatric Oncology President Kathy Pritchard-Jones said, “We look forward to working with St. Jude and WHO on this journey to ensure that all children, everywhere have access to medicines. quality cancer drugs. The platform gives birth to the dream of our more than 2600 members worldwide.
Childhood Cancer International President João Bragança added: “Cancer should not be a death sentence, no matter where a child lives. By developing this platform, St. Jude is helping families access lifesaving medicines for their children. By working together, we can change the fate of children with cancer around the world. »
The World Health Organization and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital first collaborated in 2018, when St. Jude became the first WHO Collaborating Center for Childhood Cancer and committed US$15 million to the creation of the Global Childhood Cancer Initiative. This initiative supports more than 50 governments in creating and sustaining local cancer control programs and aims to increase the survival rate to 60% by 2030. The platform is in synergy with the Global Initiative, the activities implemented as part of this new effort to contribute substantially to the achievement of the initiative’s objectives.
The Global Platform for Access to Childhood Cancer Medicines is part of St. Jude’s six-year strategic plan focused on accelerating progress on catastrophic childhood diseases globally through the most major institutional investment in research and patient care.
Dedicated to the well-being of all and guided by science, the World Health Organization (WHO) leads and champions global efforts to give everyone, everywhere an equal chance to live a safe and healthy life. WHO is the United Nations health agency that connects nations, partners and people on the frontlines in more than 150 places – leading the global response to health emergencies, preventing disease, tackling root causes health problems and increasing access to medicines and health care. The mission of WHO is to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable.
With regard to childhood cancer, WHO works with more than 100 global partners to support governments, through the Global Childhood Cancer Initiative, to develop high-quality cancer centers and regional satellites that ensure early and accurate diagnosis and effective treatment for children with cancer. WHO is also developing standards and tools to guide the planning and implementation of early diagnosis, treatment, and palliative and survivorship care interventions.
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, USA, is a world leader in the research and treatment of childhood cancer and other life-threatening pediatric diseases. St. Jude is the only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center dedicated solely to children. Treatments developed at St. Jude have helped raise the U.S. childhood cancer survival rate from 20% to 80% since the hospital opened in 1962. St. Jude is expanding its mission to help more children in the world. In 2018, St. Jude and the World Health Organization launched the Global Childhood Cancer Initiative to increase survival rates to 60% by 2030 for the most common forms of childhood cancer. The St. Jude Global Alliance is a global network with a common vision to improve care and increase survival rates for children with cancer and blood disorders worldwide.