Bring in more generic drugs to treat cancers, govt urged

KUALA LUMPUR: A patient advocacy group has urged the government to encourage more companies to bring in the generic version of a medicine that treats advanced prostate cancer.

Although there is now one generic medicine, the therapy is still not affordable for the poor as well as middle-income Malaysians, says Together Against Cancer Malaysia chairman Wong Kuan Sing.

The original hormone therapy abiraterone acetate costs around RM7,000 a month while the generic version costs RM4,000.

“It costs only RM850 in India. Unfortunately, so far only one company has the right to import the drug, creating a monopoly.

“We must rectify this situation as these drugs are already prolonging the lives of prostate cancer survivors, ” he said during the “Nothing without Us” Advocacy Cancer Care Forum here recently.

The original hormone therapy using abiraterone acetate or another hormone therapy using enzalutamide is used when a patient has stopped responding to other types of hormone therapy.

It stops the body from producing testosterone. In most men, prostate cancer cells cannot grow without testosterone, even if they have spread to other parts of the body.

“The therapies do not cure prostate cancer, ” said Wong, who is also the Prostate Cancer Society acting president.

“But they could help prostate patients live from a few months to a few years and one such patient I know in Malacca has been living for seven years.”

Prostate cancer, he said, was the fourth leading cause of death among men and last year, 789 deaths were recorded in the country.

Meanwhile, enzalutamide, a relatively new original drug, costs RM7,000 to RM8,000 but less than RM3,000 a month in India, he said.

“Similarly, other innovative medicines for other cancers are effective too but highly costly, ” said Wong.

He also urged the government to tighten the use of alternative medicine for cancer treatment by unqualified professionals that resulted in patients losing their savings and some, their lives, due to the delay or absence of mainstream cancer treatment.

He advised cancer patients not to self-treat with knowledge from social media or the Internet.

Universiti Malaya consultant breast surgeon Prof Dr Nur Aishah Mohd Taib said cancer care was not just about medicine.

To begin with, prevention and risk reduction efforts should be adopted such as reducing sugar, tobacco control, proper diet, physical activity, avoiding excessive sun and environmental exposure, alcohol use and immunisation, she said.

Screening should be done, and diagnosis and treatment carried out quickly when needed, she said.

Prof Nur Aishah also urged patients to seek evidence-based treatment.

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