Prostate cancer patients on NHIF cover to access Johnson and Johnson drugs

Prostate cancer patients covered by the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) can now access an innovator prescription drug manufactured and distributed by Janssen Kenya, one of the pharmaceutical companies of Johnson & Johnson, as part of a strategic development to expand access to quality treatment regimes in Kenya.

The move follows a joint Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between NHIF and Johnson & Johnson Middle East FZ-LLC (Janssen Kenya), the prescription drug, Abiraterone Acetate used for the treatment of advanced prostate cancer will be made available to NHIF members within their existing benefits package.

Speaking after witnessing the MoU signing by NHIF and Janssen, Ministry of Health Principal Secretary Susan Mochache in a speech read on her behalf by NHIF Chairperson Lewis Nguyai described the partnership as a landmark development that will help boost the local access to innovator drugs.

The Ministry of Health and NHIF, she said, has been actively engaging innovative pharmaceutical companies to seal similar private-public partnership agreements that will facilitate access to innovator drugs at affordable rates.

Visiting Senior Vice President for Emerging Markets at Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson Mr. Asgar Rangoonwala reiterated the company´s commitment to boosting access to innovative medicines in emerging economies. The company, he confirmed, is pursuing public-private partnerships to enhance access to safe, effective medicines and vaccines in developing countries for the most vulnerable patients.

NHIF CEO Dr. Peter Kamunyo echoed the importance of the partnership in Universal Health Coverage, confirming that NHIF has reviewed and expanded the range of benefits available for cancer patients. He said the review of benefits is geared towards alleviating the plight of cancer patients and increase access to medication.

“The Fund’s core mandate is to provide medical insurance cover to all its members by ensuring that the range of benefits remains value-filled. The spirit of UHC is to ensure access to quality and consistent healthcare services needed by all Kenyans without having to be impoverished because of the high medical bills. We are negotiating for such innovations so that the cost of medication required to save lives fits within the packages offered,” Dr. Kamunyo said.

Currently, the NHIF cancer care package entails up to 10 chemotherapy sessions, oral and injectable anti-cancer drugs, inpatient, and outpatient oncology services, 20 sessions for radiotherapy, and up to two sessions for Brachytherapy for advanced cancer, per year. The health facilities that offer the package include some level five and six hospitals and selected private hospitals in urban centers.

NHIF covers six sessions for the first-line treatment for up to Ksh25,000 per session, four sessions for second-and third-line treatment for up to Ksh150,000 per session, and 20 sessions of radiotherapy at Ksh3,600 per session. At the diagnosis level, the cover includes a biopsy under the surgical package in addition to Radiology including MRIs, ultrasounds, or CT and PET scans.

Cancer remains one of the major non-communicable diseases in Kenya and ranks third as a cause of death after infectious diseases and cardiovascular diseases. It is estimated that there are 42,000 new cases annually and approximately 28,000 cancer-related deaths every year.

More than 70 percent of cancer cases are diagnosed late when treatment outcomes are poor, and palliative care is usually the only management amenable.

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