New Global Coalition Aims to Improve Access to Cancer Medicines

The Access to Oncology Medicines Coalition brings together pharma companies and other organizations to help countries develop the capacity and access to essential cancer medicines.

The Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) and multiple partners are establishing the Access to Oncology Medicines (ATOM) Coalition, a new global partnership to increase access to essential cancer medicines in certain countries.

ATOM brings together “the most experienced organizations operating in the field to increase access to quality-assured essential cancer medicines in low- and lower middle-income countries (LLMICs) and to help countries develop the capacity for their proper use,” UICC said in a news release.

Partners in the Coalition include most of the major pharmaceutical manufacturers, including Gilead Sciences, AstraZeneca, Novartis and Roche. Other partners include the International Generic and Biosimilars Medicine Association, the Access to Medicine Foundation, and the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations.

In 2020, more than 3.5 million new cancer cases were diagnosed in low- and lower middle-income countries and an estimated 2.3 million premature deaths were caused by cancer, according to UICC. “If left unchecked, deaths from cancer in LLMICs are expected to rise to 4 million by 2040,” the organization said.

UICC said it is estimated that less than 50% of the cancer medicines on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines are currently available in low- and lower middle-income countries.

“Many LLMICs do not have sufficient resources to respond to the needs of people living with cancer and have a limited availability of essential medicines, diagnostics and complementary treatments required for good cancer treatment and care,” UICC said.

“Simply making affordable cancer medicines available does not guarantee that people living with cancer will receive the medicines they need at the right time,” Professor Anil D’Cruz, president of UICC and director of oncology at Apollo Hospitals in India, said in a press release. “This new partnership is set up to ensure that low- and lower-middle income countries get the support they need to receive the essential cancer medicines where they are currently lacking, as well as the training on their use so that their availability becomes sustainable long term and addresses the specific needs of each country with respect to its cancer burden.”

ATOM will build on UICC’s network of member organizations in selected countries, as well as on the range of global and country-level public and private sector partners with expertise in implementing cancer-focused access programs, according to UICC.