Biosimilar drug prequalified by WHO to bring down cancer treatment cost

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Breast cancer

The World Health Organization last week prequalified its first biosimilar medicine for breast cancer, which has been a most common form of cancer among women. The WHO approved trastuzumab drug that is considered to bring down the cancer drug prices and make the treatment more affordable.

It is estimated that about 2.1 million women contracted breast cancer in 2018. Of this about 6.3 lakh women dies because of diagnosing late and lack of access to affordable treatment.

Trastuzumab is a monoclonal antibody that included in the WHO Essential Medicines List in 2015. The drug was seen to be effective in curing early stage breast cancer and was also seen to be effective in some advanced forms also. WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said that the prequalification of the drug was positive news and this would help in bringing down the treatment cause.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also said that affordable and effective treatment should be a right for all women and not the privilege of a few.

Trastuzumab’s average cost is 20 000 dollars and with biosimilar version, the price has been slashed to about 65 per cent. The drug is supplied by Samsung Bioepis NL B V (Netherlands). Biotherapeutic drugs are produced from biological sources and are considered to be effective in the treatment of cancer and other diseases.

WHO has said that the number of diagnosed breast cancers will reach 3.1 million by 2040 and the numbers would be higher in low and middle income countries.

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