Cancer is a complex, life-threatening disease which affects millions of South Africans.
Cancer rates in South Africa are expected to rise significantly over the next two decades. In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of new cancer cases is expected to increase by more than 85% from 2008 to 2030. By then, for every four deaths from HIV/AIDS in the region, there will be three deaths from cancer. Along with a growing cancer burden, states will be confronted with rising and unaffordable prices for cancer medicines.
Managing Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), particularly cancer, forms a central part of the Sustainable Development Goals. Advancing cancer screening, diagnosis, and treatment in high-income countries mean cancer-related deaths are likely to remain stable in these nations.
By contrast, about 70% of global cancer mortality occurs in low-income countries and current estimates predict that deaths from cancer in these countries will grow from 5·5 million at present to 8·9 million in 2030.
A global strategic plan is required to improve cancer services sustainably in low-income countries and should focus on preventive strategies and innovative service delivery models.

In September 2015, the General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Building on the principle of “leaving no one behind”, the new Agenda emphasizes a holistic approach to achieving sustainable development for all.
The Little Fighters Cancer Trust subscribes to SDG 17,  Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development, which is why we form partnerships wherever possible within the Childhood Cancer community and are also a member of The Cancer Alliance, a collective group of cancer control non-profit organisations and advocates brought together under a common mandate; to provide a platform of collaboration for cancer civil society to speak with one voice and be a powerful tool to affect change for all South African adults and children affected by cancer.
LFCT will be taking part in the #hcsmSA Defining sustainable health systems for cancer patients in South Africa 60-minute Twitter chat with panel experts on the evening of 1 November 2018 to discuss some of the barriers cancer patients face in South Africa; What the government could do to close gaps for cancer patients in South Africa; What the gaps are in South Africa in terms of improving patient outcomes; How e-Health or other technologies could empower cancer patients in South Africa, and more…

Besides a break-down of public health services in multiple regions including in Kwazulu-Natal and Gauteng causing a backlog and long waiting lists for patients, policymakers also play a major role in establishing laws that are empowering for patients and their families. Additionally, a shortage of trained oncology doctors, nurses, physicists and radiotherapists alongside suitable equipment hinder any hopes of health system improvement.
Patent laws further lead to high prices for cancer drugs which the majority of South African citizens cannot afford. Thousands of cancer patients in South Africa are dying because they cannot afford medicines that are available in other countries at a fraction of the price. These patients are not getting the treatment that they need because our government routinely grants patents that could have been challenged and rejected.
A pharmaceutical patent is an exclusive right granted by the government to the applicant for an invention. A patent can be applied by the inventor or any other person/company assigned by the inventor. It is the right to exclude others from unauthorized making, using, offering to sell, selling or importing the invention.
In a recent patent law report compiled by activists in South Africa including the Cancer Alliance, data showed that 24 cancer medicines have no generic competition locally and it was concluded that 15 were available in India for less than half the private sector price. The most extreme case was Celgene’s blood cancer drug lenalidomide, branded Revlimid, which costs R882 000 for a year’s supply in South Africa in the private sector but just R32 000 in India. This means that South Africa’s private sector patients are paying 27 times more than those in India.
Of course, prevention is always better than cure and therefore promoting action within the population to lower the risks of getting cancer play a major role too. This can include the promotion of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, avoiding exposure to known cancer-causing substances, and taking medicines or vaccines that can prevent cancer from developing. Whether or not authorities are playing enough of a role in this regard in comparison to advocacy groups is also questionable and perhaps worth discussing openly as South Africa begins to prepare itself for Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and our National Health Insurance (NHI).

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