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Politics, Policy & Law

Creating access to cancer drugs in Africa

BioVentures for Global Health is providing biopharmas a route to help address global inequities in access to cancer drugs

BioVentures for Global Health is providing biopharmas a route to help address global inequities in access to cancer drugs

Feb 20, 2021 | 12:29 AM GMT

At the beginning of the 21st century, governments, philanthropies and pharmaceutical companies came together to provide Africans access to HIV medications, saving millions of lives by reducing the disparities in access between wealthy and poor countries. Today, another massive access disparity — the lack of access to medicines and care for cancer — condemns hundreds of thousands of Africans every year to deaths that could be avoided.

Communicable diseases, not cancer, are the focus of most global health initiatives.  While much more must be done to reduce the burden of infectious diseases in Africa, decades of investments in initiatives by philanthropies, governments and biopharma companies are paying off.  Deaths from malaria have been halved over the last two decades. 

The trajectory of cancer in Africa is more troubling. Incidence and mortality are on the upswing, cancers already kill more people on the continent than malaria, and the challenges of creating healthcare ecosystems that can effectively treat cancer are daunting.

At least one third of the projected 416,000 breast cancer deaths that will occur in sub-Saharan Africa in the coming decade could be prevented through achievable early detection and improvements in treatment, according to a study that assessed disparities in breast cancer outcomes on the continent. There are similar possibilities for improving outcomes in other cancers.

A handful of organizations, including some supported by biopharma companies, are working to improve cancer care in Africa. One is BIO Ventures

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