A new revolutionary class of cancer drugs has been approved as the global fight against the killer disease intensifies.
The new drug is known as larotrectinib and is being manufactured by Bayer AG — a multinational pharmaceutical and life sciences company based in Germany. The new cancer drug has been reported to have enough potential to cure more cancer patients and reduce the side effects that come with treatment.
The drug has the ability to treat different types of cancer, especially among children. Previously, cancer drugs have been concentrated on the specific type of cancer the patient may be suffering from. The new drug will work by blocking the neurotropic tyrosine receptor kinase enzyme. This blockage will then shrink cancerous tumours. With trials already ongoing in Europe after approvals by various regulators in Europe such as the UK’s National Health Service, it remains to be seen how long the drug will take to be approved for local use and the price it will be sold at.
In Kenya, the cost of cancer drugs, lack of drugs and treatment have been a major impediment in the war against the disease. According to the 2017/18 financial report by the National Hospital Insurance Fund, 68 per cent of families with cancer patients in Kenya experience financial hardships while 53 per cent of patient recovery is affected by lack of funds.
In the same vein, cancer drugs in Kenya are also largely not considered essential like those for other diseases such as malaria or HIV and Aids. For example, by November last year, cancer drugs from the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority were not listed among essential medicine for diseases. This was despite cancer accounting for 32,987 deaths in Kenya every year.
At the time, the authority said most hospitals in Kenya were procuring cancer drugs directly from manufacturers. The ministry of Health puts the number of new cancer cases in Kenya at 48,000.
Meanwhile, cancer treatment and care in Kenya has received a boost after the launch of Oncology Nursing Training Institute.
The institute was launched with the knowledge that there are only a few oncology nurses in the country. Currently, there are only 36 qualified oncology nurses against a current demand of 500.
This is despite the increased cancer cases in the country, putting oncology personnel under extreme pressure in delivering services and affecting the quality of care for cancer patients.
The training initiative was started by Johnson and Johnson Global Community Impact in partnership with the ministry and Amref Health Africa.
The initiative is aimed at guiding the development of new programmes, projects and resources to meet the needs of oncology nurses over a period of three years so as to bridge the gap in the number of workers.
LABOUR OF LOVE
At least 200 higher diploma nurses will be trained and deployed to the 10 oncology centres under construction by the ministry.
Every county will get four nurses from the programme.
“Oncology nursing is a labour of love. Nurses who work in oncology are indispensable to their patients, not only providing physical care and patient education, but also ministering to patients’ emotional, mental, social, and spiritual needs,” said Dr Ejersa Waqo, Head of Non-Communicable Diseases in the Health ministry.
He said access to the necessary resources, training and support was vital in cancer treatment and care.