The Cancer Gap


New treatments against cancer often only reach industrial nations, developing countries, in contrast, are falling behind.

  • €15,860 Budget in Euros
  • 2020 Final release date
  • 6 Round winner
  • 2 Locations

Recently, the pharmaceutical company Novartis set a new record. Only three years ago, the firm announced to charge 475,000 US-dollars for a single cancer therapy with the drug Kymriah, making it the most expensive cancer drug ever released on the market. Kymriah is part of a revolution that has struck cancer therapy in the last few years. The survival rate of the patients increased by ten-fold in many cases, from only a few months up to years. Some treatments are so effective that the tumors never recur. But until now, only cancer patients from wealthy nations benefit from this revolution, since only they can still afford the exorbitantly expensive therapies.

Therefore, experts observe a rapidly widening gap regarding the accessibility to cancer drugs in high and low-income countries. How is the current situation of cancer patients in less developed countries? What efforts are being done to grant access to cancer drugs there – by the governments, by the pharmaceutical industry? This project looks at two low-income countries on two different continents: in Asia, and in Latin America.

First, the project investigates the situation in a country that stands out in several aspects: India is the world's largest producer of generics, fourth in the world in terms of overall drug production. Global litigation on the cost of HIV medication was held there years ago. But as a report from 2018 shows: Only the wealthy Indians can afford modern cancer therapy - and only because they pay for it out of their own pockets. On average, Indian cancer patients pay 10 to 40 percent of their annual household income to fund their therapies - if they can afford it at all.

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