AMRIT for Indian Breast Cancer Patients

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.

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AIIMS study reveals a link between OCP’s and Breast Cancer

The use of oral contraceptive pills (OCP’s) especially emergency contraceptive pills (morning after pills) is increasing rapidly among young women and this might be one of the factors responsible for the rise in the incidence of Breast Cancer in our country. Many studies conducted on this issue have failed to indicate a clear link between OCP’s and breast cancer. However, a recent study conducted by AIIMS, which was published in Indian Journal of Cancer has revealed a higher chance of breast cancer among regular users of OCP’s.

According to the study, breast cancer risk was found to be 9.5 times more in women with a history of consuming such pills regularly. The study included 640 women, out of which 320 were breast cancer patients. 11.9% breast cancer patients in the study had a history of using long term OCP’s as compared to 1.2% healthy individuals.

It is a well known fact that breast cancer is a hormone dependent cancer (mainly dependent of on estrogen) and the regular use of OCP’s leads to a disturbance in the normal hormonal status. Morning after pills (emergency contraceptive pills), which contain a higher dose of estrogen lead to a sudden surge in the levels of these hormones and are thought to be more harmful. The problem is that these pills are being consumed on a daily basis by many youngsters. The users of morning after pills were not included in this study.

Women should realize the importance of this study and more awareness needs to be created among young women regarding excessive use of emergency contraceptives. At the same point, more studies (prospective trials) are required on this issue to firmly establish a link between OCP’s and breast cancer.

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Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/The-pill-can-kill-AIIMS-study/articleshow/28251469.cms