NHIF, Janssen in partnership to enhance patient access to prostate cancer drugs

Amref Health Africa Global CEO Dr. Githinji Gitahi (left) with Ministry of Health Head of Curative & Rehabilitative Services Dr. Izaq Odongo, Johnson & Johnson Director, Government Affairs and Policy East Africa Director and Janssen Pharmaceuticals Director of Global Business Institutions and Patient insight, Global Market Access, Mr. Craig Winters at the Janssen Kenya Prostate cancer program launch. PHOTO | Courtesy

The National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) in conjunction with Janssen, one of the pharmaceutical companies of Johnson & Johnson, have unveiled a joint partnership to enhance access of a crucial drug for local prostate cancer patients.

The Janssen Kenya Prostate cancer program will provide significant cost savings to NHIF members, and seeks to support efforts by NHIF to adopt new low cost service delivery models by embracing public-private partnerships (PPPs).

The partnership will see Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a specialist oncology pharmaceutical solutions provider, making one of its innovative medicines used for the treatment of advanced prostate cancer available at a subsidized rate for NHIF members.

The prescription drug, Zytiga (Abiraterone) will be available to NHIF members from selected public and private medical facilities. With the realization that Prostate cancer remains the leading cancer in men in Kenya, NHIF two years ago introduced the cancer treatment reimbursement scheme for all its’ National Scheme members.

The scheme reimburses up-to a maximum of KSh600,000 a year for all cancers. Last year, NHIF, spent KSh1.36 billion in the financial year 2017/ 2018 as payment towards oncology (cancer) treatments representing an 11 per cent increase from the previous year.

Speaking at the launch of the joint partnership, Janssen Pharmaceuticals Director of Global Business Institutions and Patient insight, Global Market Access, Mr. Craig Winters, said the company is partnering with NHIF to enhance treatment of metastatic castrate resistant prostate cancer with Zytiga (Abiraterone) to facilitate a positive impact on the lives of patients with advanced prostate cancer.

The partnership, he said, is geared at enhancing access for patients with advanced prostate cancer by getting more patients diagnosed and treated earlier while providing access to treatment with Zytiga (Abiraterone) through a Patient Assistance Program for prostate cancer patients who are also NHIF members.

The partnership with NHIF, Winter said will provide much needed financial relief as financing for cancer treatment remains a challenge for many developing countries including Kenya. In many developing countries, Cancer drugs remain out of reach for a majority of patients.

NHIF Claims and Benefits Manager Judy Otele said the insurance fund is actively working to address barriers to cancer care access. With the Janssen Kenya Prostate cancer project, NHIF, she disclosed has successfully managed to negotiate the price reduction of Zytiga from Kshs 200,000 to about KSh100,000.

As part of the commitment, Janssen Kenya Country Manager Mr. Marseille Onyango, said the firm will make the treatment available at a discounted price for NHIF members as part of a corporate commitment to strengthen cancer care in sub-Sahara Africa.

Public Accounts Committee chairman Opiyo Wandayi who attended the partnership launch event described cancer as a crisis that will evolve to a calamity, if not addressed. The legislator pledged to provide support to ensure that initiatives such as the Janssen Kenya Prostate cancer project are devolved to grass root levels.

The Ministry of Health Head of Curative & Rehabilitative Services Dr. Izaq Odongo who represented Cabinet Secretary Cecily Kariuki, on his part confirmed that the government is focusing its efforts on strengthening health systems for Universal Health Coverage (UHC) as part of the National Cancer Control Strategy.

Cancer is one of the major non-communicable diseases in Kenya and ranks third as a cause of death after infectious diseases and cardiovascular diseases. It is estimated that there are 40,000 new cases annually and approximately 28,000 cancer related deaths every year. More than 70% of cancer cases are diagnosed at late stage when treatment outcomes are poor and palliative care is usually the only management amenable.

Currently, the NHIF care package entails up to 10 chemotherapy sessions, oral and injectable anti-cancers drugs, inpatient and outpatient oncology services, 20 sessions for radio therapy, and up to two sessions for Brachytherapy for advanced cancer, per year. Among the health facilities that offer the package include some level five and six hospitals, and selected private hospitals in urban centres.

NHIF covers six sessions for the first line treatment for up to Ksh25,000 per session, four sessions for the second and third line treatment for up to Ksh150,000 per session and 20 sessions of radiotherapy at Ksh3,600 per session. Biopsy is covered under the surgical package. Radiology is also done during the diagnosis stage, and this include MRIs, ultrasounds, or CT scan and PET scan, also covered by NHIF.

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