We Can Mobilise Our Networks: Approval or Coverage for Oral Cancer Medications in Brazil

We Can Mobilise Our Networks: Approval or Coverage for Oral Cancer Medications in Brazil

Gilberto Lopes, MD, FASCO, MBA

Feb 03, 2016

World Cancer Day LogoThe World Health Organization estimates that approximately 60% of the world’s new annual cancer cases occur in Asia, Africa, and Central and South America, and that 70% of cancer deaths occur in these regions. Although oral chemotherapy is a promising intervention for cancer treatment, given its high cost, it is usually unavailable in middle-income countries.

In 2013, after strong lobbying from civil society, Brazil’s Congress passed legislation mandating that all private health insurance companies provide access to oral antineoplastic treatment. The decision to scale up the provision of oral chemotherapy was a watershed event in the regulation of private health insurance in Brazil. Until then, private insurers, which cover 25% of the population, were exempted from the provision of pharmaceutical drugs for home care treatments.

In an article published online in the Journal of Global Oncology, my colleagues and I explore the political process involved in regulating the provision of oral chemotherapy medicines by private health insurers. Elements of this successful advocacy case included investment in strategic communication, specialized knowledge of regulatory policy, and the ability to act via democratic channels of political representation. In turn, the receptiveness of government branches such as the Congress and regulating bodies, as well as the Cancer Awareness Month campaign, opened a window of opportunity.

However, prospects for expanded access to such medicines in the public health system are bleak in the short term because of the ongoing political and economic crisis. Still, we remain hopeful and will look forward to reporting on a successful resolution in a future ASCO Connection commentary.

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