In my previous posts, I have highlighted the misery of poor Indian breast cancer patients who test positive for HER 2 neu. These cancers are usually aggressive and need to be treated with targeted agents like Herceptin. The problem is that each dose of Herceptin costs close to 50-60 thousand rupees in our country and this drug is not available in any government medical college.
Even with the introduction of bio-similars like CANMab, the cost of treatment remained to the tune to 40-45 thousand rupees per dose. I know many families, who sold their houses & jewelry to fund for their loved one’s Herceptin treatment. One such patient was Mrs. Laxmi (name changed), who had Stage III HER-2-neu positive breast cancer. She hailed from an average middle class family and the news of diagnosis of breast cancer was a huge shock for her. To add to her woes, she got to know that she would require close to 6 lakh rupees to fund for her Herceptin treatment. After a lot of deliberation with the family, she decided to fund her treatment by selling her wedding jewelry. Fortunately, things worked out well for her and she is still alive & healthy, 5 years after her cancer diagnosis. Other patients are not so lucky, as they do not possess such reserve money to fund for their HER treatment.
The Indian government’s new AMRIT scheme (Affordable Medicine & Reliable Implants for Treatment), might turn out to be a huge boon for these breast cancer patients. This scheme aims to bring down the cost of essential cancer medicines by 50-60%. The first AMRIT center was inaugurated recently at AIIMS and soon other centers would be started all across the country. Although the list of drugs which will be made available at these centers has not been released, I am hoping that Herceptin would be one of them. This would really help us in treating HER 2 positive patients, thereby leading to increased survival rates.
If this scheme is properly implemented, it will truly turn out to be an “AMRIT” for Indian cancer patients.