The Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) has announced a new global initiative – called the Access to Oncology Medicines (ATOM) Coalition – to improve access to essential cancer medicines in low- and lower middle-income countries (LLMICs). ATOM aims to both increase the availability and affordability of cancer medicines, and increase the capacity to use these medicines appropriately.
According to the UICC, “priority will be given to medicines currently on the WHO Essential Medicines List (EML), or those likely to be included in the future, which treat cancers with the highest incidence-to-mortality in LLMICs (lung, colorectal, breast, cervical, prostate and childhood cancers)”.
ATOM will involve:
- Working with governments and other stakeholders to assess their needs and offer targeted training and capacity building support
- Support generic, biosimilar and originator manufacturers to develop, register and supply quality-assured essential cancer medicines at affordable prices in selected ATOM countries
- Facilitating the successful use of voluntary licenses for patented EML medicines and new medicines that are of significant public health importance.
The Coalition will work with global and country-level partners to enhance and amplify the impact of access projects in LLMICs. It brings together numerous partners from civil society organisations as well as the public and private sectors. AstraZeneca, Gilead, Bristol Myers Squibb, Novartis and Roche are among the manufacturers to have joined the Coalition to date.
According to pharmaphorum, in one of the first moves by an ATOM member, Novartis has agreed to license rights to its tyrosine kinase inhibitor drug Tasigna (nilotinib) to the UN-based Medicines Patent Pool. Dr Lutz Hegemann, Novartis’ chief strategy and growth officer, is reported to have commented, “As part of Novartis’s commitment to address the needs of underserved populations and bring our medicines to patients, no matter where they live, we are proud to be the first pharmaceutical company to contribute a targeted therapy to this coalition.”
According to the UICC, more than 3.5 million new cancer cases were diagnosed in LLMICs in 2020 and an estimated 2.3 million premature deaths were caused by cancer. If left unchecked, deaths from cancer in LLMICs are expected to rise to 4 million by 2040.