Angara bats for affordable cancer treatment for indigents

MANILA Senator Sonny Angara on Tuesday called on the government to take decisive action to bridge the disparity in cancer treatment for rich and poor patients given the skyrocketing cost of cancer care and medication.

The lawmaker said that such decisive action should take the form of increased access to drugs for cancer treatment and expanded coverage for preventive and diagnostic services.

"It is high time the government comes up with an integrated and comprehensive approach to bridge the divide between rich and poor cancer patients," Angara said.

The senator noted that cancer imposes immense burdens not just on patients, but also on their families and communities.

Specifically, cancer pushes Filipinos deeper into poverty. Cancer treatment costs are catastrophic and the economic burden is overwhelming. The average cost for a year's worth of treatment could run into hundreds of thousands to millions of pesos," Angara said.

Due to the high cost, he said people with advanced cancer turn down recommended care while other cancer patients and their families use up all or most of their savings to pay for treatment.

He cited that in some areas and with certain types of cancer, abandonment or discontinuance of treatment can be as high as 75 percent due to the astronomical cost of treatment.

These conditions are most observed among the poor marginalized sector, but occur even among the middle class, Angara said.

He said that it is for this reason that he filed Senate Bill No. 1570, or the proposed National Integrated Cancer Control Act, which seeks to make cancer treatment and care more equitable and affordable for all Filipinos.

The bill provides for a PHP30-billion cancer assistance fund to support the medical and treatment assistance program for cancer patients, especially those who belong to the most vulnerable sectors of society.

"Cancer is a complex and catastrophic disease which is an urgent public health concern. We need to develop a system in which all people with cancer have access to high-quality and affordable cancer treatments," Angara said.

That's why it is important that we institutionalize a systematic, well-organized, well-coordinated, well-funded, patient- and family-centered integrated cancer control programs at all levels of the existing health care delivery system," he said.

SBN 1570 seeks to expand the current benefits of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) to include screening, detection, diagnosis, treatment assistance, palliative and supportive care, survivorship follow-up care and rehabilitation.

This should cover all types and stages of cancer of patients regardless of age, Angara said.

The proposed measure targets to lower overall mortality and impact of all adult and childhood cancers, decrease incidence of preventable cancer in adults, and prevent cancer relapse and recurrence and secondary cancers among people living with cancers and survivors.

Once passed into law, the amount necessary to implement its provisions during the first year will be charged against the annual appropriations of the Department of Health, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. and the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

The budget for the succeeding years will come from the 10-percent of incremental revenues from the excise tax revenues on alcohol products collected by the government pursuant to Republic Act No. 10351, among other tax revenues. (PR)

Source: Philippine News Agency