Red tape nixed for cancer-patient trials


THE Philippines should create a conducive environment to enable multinational drug companies to conduct their free clinical trials in hassle-free conditions especially for the country’s cancer patients.

“That’s where we should work on. We should make it easier for the drug companies to bring their research to us,” Dr. Jorge Ignacio, chairman of the Cancer Institute of the Philippine General Hospital said on Thursday in a press briefing held in Manila.

“Unfortunately, we’re acting quite slow in this matter because of our technical and ethics review,” Ignacio pointed out.

Ignacio urged the government to establish an agency dedicated to handling matters regarding cancer diseases from consultation, chemotherapy, financial assistance, counseling, among others.

Right now, Ignacio said drug companies are required to get the approval of the institutional review board of several institutions before undergoing clinical trials.

Since cancer treatment requires a gargantuan amount of financial resources, Ignacio pointed out that P1-billion cancer fund is not quite sufficient. “I don’t know if there was a feasibility study done on the preventive side. It did not include economic experts who can project the real cost of such a project,” he said.

“If they had included me in the consultation, I would tell them P1 billion is not enough,” he added.

In PGH alone, the annual budget for cancer patients is P600 million. The hospital receives 60,000 to 70,000 patients annually.

In February this year, the government restored government funds totaling P1.56 billion for cancer.

House Deputy Speaker Ralph Recto recently said in a statement that the initiative result is a “product of a multipartisan, bicameral push.”

Of the P1.56 billion, the House allotted P1.054 billion for cancer prevention, detection, treatment, and care, as laid out in Republic Act No. 11215 or the National Integrated Cancer Control Act.

A portion of the budget, Recto said, will be assigned for the acquisition and delivery of cancer, supportive care and palliative care medicines under the eight treatable cancer types.

Meanwhile, the remaining P500 million under the Cancer Assistance Fund, will be assigned for “cancer prevention, detection, treatment, diagnostics, and care for eight priority cancer types.

According to a study conducted  by the University of the Philippines’ Institute of Human Genetics, National Institutes of Health, 189 of every 100,000 people are affected by cancer, with four Filipinos dying of the dreaded disease. The top five causes of cancer in the Philippines are breast cancer, lung cancer, colorectal, liver and prostate.