Nepal joins GPACCM to receive free childhood cancer medicines

KATHMANDU, MARCH 28: The Ministry of Health and Population has signed an agreement with the World Health Organization (WHO) to join the Global Platform for Access to Childhood Cancer Medicines (GPACCM). This platform is an initiative by St Jude Global and WHO that aims to increase access to lifesaving childhood cancer medicines in low and middle-income countries. As a member of the platform, Nepal will receive 35 types of childhood cancer medicines free of cost for four years.

The WHO will provide technical support to strengthen the supply chain system and healthcare facilities to ensure the effective distribution of medicines. UNICEF is the procurement partner of the GPACCM Platform and will be involved in the procurement of the medicines and delivering them to the port of entry.

The first batch of medicines is expected to arrive in the country by the third quarter of 2024 and will be used for the treatment of childhood cancer in four participating health institutions: Bhaktapur Cancer Hospital, BP Koirala Cancer Hospital, Kanti Children’s Hospital, and Patan Hospital. The initiative will be expanded to shared care centre hospitals as the need arises in the future.

Speaking at the signing ceremony held yesterday in the capital, the Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Population Dr Roshan Pokhrel said that with this agreement, Nepal has formally joined the GPACCM platform and it will make a great difference in improving the treatment of children suffering from cancer in the country.

Likewise, WHO Representative to Nepal Rajesh Sambhajirao Pandav said that this innovative platform will help enhance access to cancer care by addressing medicine availability issues. It will ensure that children who need essential cancer medications can access them, while also helping reduce the financial burden placed upon parents and families of children with cancer. Each year, an estimated 900 children are reportedly diagnosed with cancer in Nepal, but only about one-third of childhood cancer cases receive treatment due to limited access to services and resource scarcity, resulting in increased deaths, according to WHO.

Nepal is one of the six countries worldwide and the only one in the WHO South-East Asia Region selected by the GPACCM platform to participate in this initiative. The country was chosen as a focus country for the Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer (GICC) in 2020, which aims to improve outcomes for children with cancer around the world and reach a 60 per cent survival rate for children with cancer by 2030. The Global Platform for Access to Childhood Cancer Medicines, the first of its kind, was launched in 2021 as part of the Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer.

Developed jointly by St Judes Global and WHO, the platform aims to provide an uninterrupted supply of quality-assured cancer medicines to approximately 120,000 children in low and middle-income countries between 2022 and 2024, with the expectation to scale up in future years. This platform will provide end-to-end support by consolidating global demand to shape the market, assisting countries with the selection of medicines, developing treatment standards, and building information systems to track that effective care is being provided and to drive innovation.