PETALING JAYA: Positive Malaysian Treatment Access & Advocacy Group (MTAAG) has joined the global protest against the high price of trastuzumab, an essential drug in breast cancer treatment.
“Many people have to sell their houses to get access to the drug,” said MTAAG director Edward Low at Sunway Pinnacle today.
“Even the insurance companies are unable to cover the cost.”
The drug is sold by Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche, which Low said had agreed to meet with MTAAG.
“We will be submitting a memorandum to them and hopefully they will hear us out,” Low said.
Health economists have shown that a year’s worth of trastuzumab can be manufactured and sold for US$240 (RM1,065) to make a generous profit.
But in South Africa, Roche charges US$38,365 (RM170,000) for a year’s supply of the drug. It costs that much in Malaysia as well.
In some countries, Roche exerts influence on the price by means of multiple evergreen patents on trastuzumab.
Demonstrations have been held at Roche offices and pharmaceutical associations in Malaysia as well as South Africa, France, Zambia, Brazil, the US and UK.
According to MTAAG, South African activists launched the Tobeka Daki Campaign for access to trastuzumab.
The campaign is named after Tobeka Daki, a South African cancer activist who died of cancer last year.
“Even as the likelihood of her getting trastuzumab diminished, Tobeka’s determination to ensure other women had access to the drug grew stronger,” said Salomé Meyer of the Cancer Alliance in South Africa.
Last year, cases of breast cancer were highest among main cancers in Malaysia. Breast cancer made up 14.5% of recorded cancer cases, above intestinal cancer (12.1%), lung cancer (11.8%), cervical cancer (5.7%) and throat cancer (5.4%).
Deputy Health Minister Hilmi Yahaya said at the time that one in four Malaysians would suffer from cancer by the age of 75.
“We expect that by 2020, there will be an increase of 15% in the number of cancer cases.” -FMT