World-leading oncology experts took part in an industry frontier forum organized by Sandoz, a Division of the Novartis Group, and the second largest generics pharmaceuticals company globally. Held in Salzburg, Austria, 9-10 April, the Sandoz Middle East Oncology Forum marked the launch of the company’s Middle East Continuous Medical Education (CME) program, and focused on advances in managing early breast cancer and the transformational role of affordable anti-cancer generic drugs and biologically similar therapeutic agents (biosimilars).
Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in the world and, by far, the most frequent cancer among women with an estimated 1.67 million new cancer cases diagnosed in 2012. It now represents one in four of all cancers in women. In the Middle East, breast cancer is a growing problem; the average age of women diagnosed is ten years younger than in Europe.
“Despite the high incidence rates of breast cancer worldwide – 30-35% of all cancer cases affecting women – there is a significant rise in cure rates; early detection has enabled cure rates exceeding 90%,” said Prof Hamdy Abdel Azim, Conference Chairman and Head Chairman of the Department of Clinical Oncology at Cairo University.
“Egypt’s Health Ministry has exerted tremendous efforts to fight breast cancer, especially with the launch of the National Program for Early Detection which offers free mammograms. However there remains a massive need for longer-term strategies to provide post-surgery treatments which are essential to prevent relapse. Despite the significant rise in cure rates driven by major advances in chemotherapy and biologic treatments, their high cost makes them out of reach of many patients.”
“With growing financial constraints on healthcare systems and impending patent expiry on major biological therapies used in oncology, biosimilars offer an important opportunity to provide high-quality and clinically effective medications at reduced cost,” said Abdel Azim.
“With the appropriate regulation and monitoring that the Health Ministry has in place, greater adoption of affordable and high-quality biosimilars reduces the massive financial burden and provides patients with access to life-saving treatments. This is indispensible for the success of a national anti-cancer strategy.”
“Today, when life-saving cancer treatments are often beyond the reach of millions of patients, Sandoz plays a transformational role by making such vital quality treatments much more affordable and accessible, thereby helping save many lives,” said Dr Matti Aapro Dean of the Multidisciplinary Oncology Institute, Genolier, Switzerland and Forum Co-Chair.
“Available evidence indicates that EMA approved biosimilars offer a safe and effective alternative to originator biological therapies. They also offer potentially significant cost savings to healthcare authorities.”
A recent quantitative analysis of the European biosimilar market concluded that the potential cost savings are substantial—by some estimates, a 20% reduction in the price of six off-patent biopharmaceuticals would save Euros 1.6 billion in Europe each year.
“Today breast cancer is no longer a death sentence. Women diagnosed with the disease receive treatment and in most cases, resume healthy and productive lives,” said Dr Sanaa Al Sukhun, American boarded Hematologist and Medical Oncologist, with breast cancer sub-specialty currently practicing in Jordan.
“The cancer incidence rate is much lower in the Middle East compared to Europe and the US; in nine Middle East countries, incidence rates varied between 35 and 175 cases per 100,000 individuals. Yet a challenging issue is the young age of our patients, who are diagnosed when their families and societies are relying heavily on their contribution. This adds to the responsibility of optimizing their care and quality of life.”
Yet Al Sukhun highlighted that the costs of treatment remain sizeable, “The average cost per cancer case in six Middle East countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, KSA and UAE) was estimated at EUR 34,000, out of which nearly 30% (EUR 10,000) covered drug costs. Egypt on the other hand has a much lower healthcare expenditure per capita; estimated at EUR 1,000 per cancer case and the cost of drugs per case at EUR 250. With biologics, lately introduced to treatment regimens and driving remarkable improvement in survival, the cost is at least 10 times more. This emphasizes the massive need to cut down on cost by integrating effective biosimilars.”
Sandoz is the global leader and pioneer in developing, manufacturing and commercializing biosimilars. Sandoz markets three biosimilar products, each of which are #1 in their respective categories globally and has an industry-leading biosimilars pipeline of seven Phase III trials across five molecules including biosimilars for Humira®, Enbrel®, Rituxan® and Neulasta®. Sandoz is among the leading global suppliers of oncology injectables with a comprehensive portfolio, strong pipeline, and broad geographic presence.
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