THE Chairman of the House Committee on Social Services said Monday that cancer patients can now access free cancer drugs under the National Integrated Cancer Control Act (NICCA).
In a letter, Quezon City representative Alfred Vargas, chairman of the panel, said the Department of Health (DOH) had assured patients could now access the established 620 million peso cancer aid fund. by NICCA.
The DOH letter, signed by Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergerie, was in response to a letter from Vargas inquiring about the status of the Cancer Aid Fund.
According to the health ministry, the provision of free cancer drugs will fall under the ministry’s cancer drug access, supportive and palliative care program.
The program will provide free medicines to patients with breast cancer, childhood cancer, gynecological cancer; cancers of the liver, colorectal and other cancers of the digestive tract, cancers of the blood in adults; head, neck and thyroid cancers; lung cancer and prostate and bladder cancers.
The DOH said this year the program will care for approximately 21,000 patients or beneficiaries in 26 DOH hospitals, including the Philippine General Hospital.
Although the administrative order has yet to be signed by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, the fund is accessible through the Indigent Medical Assistance program, the DOH said.
The NICC, or Republic Act 11215, was enacted by President Duterte in 2019. But the NICC remained without funding after the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) disapproved of the DOH’s proposal to set aside $ 540 million. in pesos for the Cancer Assistance Fund.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said the Philippines recorded 92,606 cancer deaths and 153,751 new cancer cases last year.
According to the Cancer Coalition Philippines, a breast ultrasound, which is just one of many tests for breast cancer, could range from P600 to P3,000 depending on the hospital. A colonoscopy could cost from P1,500 to around P14,000 excluding professional fees.
Depending on the type of cancer, he said the cost of chemotherapy per session can range from P20,000 to P120,000 or more.
“This is a victory for cancer care advocates as well as for patients and their families. For years, we have all fought to make cancer treatment more affordable. We have seen how families of cancer patients, regardless of their economy class, struggle to pay the cost of treating their loved ones. We are now in a position to offer them relief, ”said Vargas.
Vargas had previously expressed concern that the 620 million pesos allocated by Congress for free cancer drugs this year could go back to the national treasury if not used by the DOH.
“The pandemic has greatly affected the families of cancer patients, especially those who have the sole breadwinner and have lost their jobs or their livelihoods. The fund is a lifeline for them, and I am grateful that they can finally access it, ”he said.