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Free Public Health Insurance Ensures All Mexican Women with Breast Cancer Can be Treated

WHO International
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February 26, 2016

Abish Romero is preparing to celebrate: in a few months she will mark 5 years free of breast cancer, after receiving successful treatment in her home country of Mexico.

But the 28-year-old, whose mother died from late diagnosed breast cancer several years ago, had to make some tough choices before her care started in 2011.

Abish was working outside of Mexico as an au pair, when she was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer, and had to return home to receive the treatment needed.

“I had no option but to return to Mexico, where free public health insurance (called Seguro Popular) ensures all women diagnosed with breast cancer can be treated with no out-of-pocket expense,” says Abish, who underwent extensive surgery and chemotherapy.

While many nations cannot afford expensive cancer medicines, Mexico is an example of a middle-income country that has taken major structural steps to give sustainable access to treatment for people diagnosed with breast and other forms of cancer. It has done this by reforming and consolidating their procurement policies to achieve price reductions for essential medicines.

The example of Mexico is one that WHO is striving to see emulated globally through implementation of the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines as part of a broader approach to strengthening national health systems.

The list of essential medicines serves as a model for countries to follow in enabling the treatment of the most curable high-burden diseases, including adult and childhood cancers.

In May 2015, 16 new medicines for treating cancers were added to the latest edition of the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines, a powerful signal by WHO and cancer control advocates to governments to step up cancer care and guide national efforts to strengthen their health systems.

These new cancer medicines include imatinib (for treating chronic myelogenous leukemia), rituximab (for some types of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma) and trastuzumab (which treats a common sub-type of breast cancer responsible for 20-25% of cases of all breast cancers).

WHO’s Dr Nicola Magrini explains that the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines is not just about drugs, like ensuring that no one is denied health care because they cannot afford to pay for it, guaranteeing access to medicines is key to moving towards universal health coverage and strengthening national health systems. For high-priced medicines, this means policies and practices to substantially reduce costs so they become affordable for the health system.

Read the rest at WHO International

Photo: WHO/A. Romero

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