Indian Medical Parliamentarians’ Forum (IMPF), a voluntary grouping of qualified doctors in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, has asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to explore the possibility of introducing free comprehensive cancer treatment in India.
In a letter to PM Modi on December 22, Dr Lorho S. Pfoze, a member of Lok Sabha and joint convenor of IMPF, asked the government to appoint an expert panel to look into the matter. IMPF wants the panel to see if the provisions for government use (Section 100) in Indian Patent Act can be invoked to facilitate the generic availability of medicines used for the treatment of one of the most common cancers – breast cancer – in the country. The letter also sought the expert panel to examine the impact of patents on the availability and affordability of all cancer medicines in India.
The letter cited the 139th report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on health to highlight the need for affordable diagnosis and treatment of cancer. “About 40% of the cancer hospitalisation cases are financed through borrowings, sale of assets and contributions from friends and relatives. Considering such a glaring gap in affordability, there is a strong need to make cancer care affordable through suitable interventions from the government and private sectors,” the Parliamentary panel noted.
Stating the prices of three breast cancer medicines – Ribociclib, Palbociclib and Abemaciclib – are in the range of ₹48,000 to ₹95,000 for a month’s dose, IMPF called for urgent government intervention.
According to IMPF, though several government and state-funded health insurance schemes are intended to improve cancer treatment coverage for specific population groups, no single scheme has been envisaged to comprehensively cover cancer diagnosis and treatment costs for all beneficiaries. “Further the schemes are highly fragmented, and there is a significant nationwide variation in the nature of treatment available. Also, the various public insurance schemes are limited only to inpatient treatment, therefore outpatient treatment and high-level tertiary care, including expensive medicines are not covered,” the letter to PM said.
Of the 54 members of IMPF, 46 are qualified allopathic medical doctors. Among the members, 10 are from Rajya Sabha, and 44 are elected members of the Lok Sabha. Starting in 2006, Union health ministers have always been the patron of IMPF. Dr Kirit Premjibhai Solanki is the chairperson of IMPF. Dr Kanimozhi Somu is its vice-chairperson.