Access to Cytotoxic Medicines by Children With Cancer: A Focus on Low and Middle Income Countries
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BACKGROUND: The Essential Medicines Working Group of the International Society of Pediatric Oncology (SIOP) has proposed a list of antineoplastic drugs that should be available in low and middle income countries. PROCEDURE: Data were extracted on the listing of 18 essential and 8 ancillary antineoplastic medicines in the national essential medicines lists (NEMLs) or national reimbursable medicines lists (NRMLs) of 135 countries with gross national income (GNI) per capita of less than US $25,000. Correlations between numbers of medicines listed and GNI per capita, annual government health expenditure (AGHE) per capita, and the number of physicians per million people were examined. RESULTS: Listing of the 18 essential antineoplastic drugs ranged from 27% (thioguanine) to 95% (methotrexate). The median number of medicines listed was 7 (0-18) in low income countries (n = 26) and 14 in lower-middle (n = 42), upper-middle (n = 44), and high income countries (n = 20). For the ancillary eight medicines, the median was one (0-8) across the 135 countries. Correlations with GNI per capita (r = 0.17, P = 0.0266) and physician density (r = 0.25, P = 0.0017) were statistically significant; not so for AGHE per capita (r = 0.00, P = 0.5000). CONCLUSIONS: There was large variability within income groups in numbers of antineoplastic agents identified as essential in NEMLs and NRMLs. While not a direct measure of availability, listing is an important step, guiding procurement for the public sector. These results focus attention on deficits in NEMLs and NMRLs as a step to improving access to effective antineoplastic medicines for cancers in children in low and middle income countries.
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