No one should have to worry about finances when they are faced with a cancer diagnosis. Unfortunately, millions of people do. That's why Graham is part of a new initiative to increase access to affordable medicine. Read more.
My dad died on November 9th 2011, after a long fight with pancreatic cancer. As he battled this hideous disease I never once thought about whether he could afford the medicine he needed. As the doctor prescribed patches to manage his pain, the issue of cost didn't enter my head. The only time we talked about money was just before he died. It was a handover discussion so I could care for mum. In my personal grief, I only had to deal with the injustice of death and my sense of loss.
But I know that my experience is rare. The World Health Organization estimates that 100 million people each year are pushed below the poverty line as a result of health care costs. Behind that statistic are individuals and families caring for people they love – having to fight illness and struggling to make ends meet. Over 10 million die because they cannot afford the medicine they need. That's not right.
For many people this issue is a distant one. You don't think about this kind of thing unless you or your loved one is ill. And if you do think about it, you might assume this is just a problem for the developing world. That makes sense. Diseases that are preventable or treatable in wealthy countries are death sentences in the developing world. For example, 90 percent of children with leukemia in high-income countries will be cured, whereas 90 percent of those with the same disease in low-income countries will die from it. And yet, lack of access to affordable medicine affects wealthier nations as well. Fifty million Americans aren't filling a prescription because of cost and the price of cancer treatment is rising fast. In 2012, the FDA approved 39 drugs. Of the 12 for cancer, 11 cost over $100,000 a year. This is a global problem.
A Movement Has Begun
That's why an Initiative – www.accessourmedicine.com
- was launched on World Health Day, April 7th 2014. Since the launch, over 30,000 people from over 140 countries have signed a declaration – that everyone should have access to affordable medicine.
It's a statement that something has to change.
I know that this is a complex issue and it will require sophisticated solutions but we need to start somewhere. The more people who sign, share, talk and engage with this issue, the more likely those solutions have a chance of being developed.
There is an opportunity now to attract the attention of world leaders who are currently setting their priorities for the next 10-15 years. Access to affordable medicine should be part of the 2015 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
I don't know what my Dad would make of all this. I wish I could ask. But I do know my family is grateful that we didn't have to worry about unaffordable medicine. No one should.
Please consider adding your voice by signing the declaration at www.accessourmedicine.com
What was your experience with the cost of cancer care? Share your experiences in the comments below.