MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the World Health Organization said Monday they plan to provide cancer medicines at no cost to children in under-resourced countries, a $200 million investment in a world where children in richer nations are much more likely to survive.
St. Jude and the WHO said the Global Platform for Access to Childhood Cancer Medicines seeks to provide safe and effective cancer medicine to about 120,000 children. The medicines will be given at no cost during a two-year pilot phase. Then, the countries involved may take on some of the costs in the latter years of the project, which will extend from 2022 to 2027.
The hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, and the WHO will help countries select the medicines, develop standards and track the delivery of care, a news release said.
Nearly nine in 10 children with cancer live in low- and middle-income countries where less than 30% survive, compared with 80% in high-income countries, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. Medicine availability in low- and middle-income countries is often burdened by high prices and supply problems, the hospital and the WHO said.
“This new platform … will help redress this unacceptable imbalance and give hope to many thousands of parents faced with the devastating reality of a child with cancer,” he said.
Medicines will be purchased and provided initially to 12 countries and then distributed through governments, cancer centers and non-governmental organizations, St. Jude said. The countries have not yet been selected. St. Jude and the WHO expect that 50 countries will end up receiving childhood cancer medicines through the program.
“Unless we address the shortage and poor quality of cancer medicines in many parts of the world, there are very few options to cure these children,” said Dr. Carlos Rodriguez-Galindo, chair of the St. Jude Department of Global Pediatric Medicine and director of St. Jude Global.
St. Jude is considered a leading researcher of cancer and other life-threatening diseases that affect children, and a prominent charity: Families with children who are patients at the hospital never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing and food.