Government Finances Drug for Breast Cancer Treatment

Tbilisi City Hall, together with the Ministry of Health, Labor and Social Affairs of Georgia, is to support the treatment of patients with early stage breast cancer. The cost of the joint program is 10 million Lari and includes providing patients with the expensive drug Herceptin.

According to the initiative, people who suffer from HER2-positive breast cancer (I-III stages) will receive financial assistance to buy the specialist drug. The financing conditions will differ between Tbilisi citizens and those from the regions.

Tbilisi City Hall was the pioneer in launching this program. Mayor of Tbilisi, Davit Narmania, stated that cancer patients with low incomes (who scored lower than 150,000 on a local social rating) would be fully financed by the State while people above this threshold would receive 80 percent state funding.

A few days later, the Ministry of Health announced its support of this program and announced that all HER2-positive breast cancer patients in Georgia’s region will also receive 80 percent funding. “Of course, this is not the only drug in the course of cancer treatment and we are working hard to make other medicines accessible to all segments of the population,” said Davit Sergeenko, Minister of Health, Labor and Social Affairs of Georgia.

Hospital data suggests that around 200-250 women in the regions of Georgia and 130-150 women in Tbilisi are suffering from breast cancer at present. However, representatives of the Ministry of Health noted that the number could be much higher due to the possibility that financial insolvency is preventing some sufferers from receiving treatment in hospitals, meaning that for such people there exists no data.

The market price for 1 vial of Herceptin is 5500 Lari, the annual course (13 vials), which is financed by the state, previously cost more than 70,000 Lari. Recently, the Government of Georgia made an agreement with the Herceptin producer to reduce the price to 2700 Lari. With this in mind, it appears that patients receiving 80 percent financing will pay only 7,000 Lari for the annual course.

It is important to note that Herceptin is a very powerful drug – it decreases the risk of relapse by 40-45 percent, and increases the chance of effective treatment and complete recovery in the early stages. Since 2006, the Cancer Associations of the US and Europe has been recommending Herceptin for HER2-positive breast cancer treatment. Moreover, the World Health Organization put the medicine on the list of mandatory drugs in 2013. Herceptin has been present on the Georgian market for almost ten years.

Minister Sergeenko also highlighted that, besides this program, the Government created a free screening program for people in the risk group. “The screening program has been on-going in Georgia for many years and is very successful – it helps to identify the disease at an early stage, and thus treat it quickly,” he explained.

The early stage treatment program for breast cancer is available to all Georgian citizens from February 2016. All information about the necessary documents and conditions of receiving the treatment can be found on the websites of Tbilisi City Hall and the Ministry of Health or by calling: 1505.

Eka Karsaulidze

11 February 2016 19:38