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Lymphoma and Bendamustine and Rituximab access in South Africa

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, associated in particular with the People Living with HIV, is steadily increasing. The success of ARV treatments has the negative impact of a compromised immune system that is more susceptible to cancers such as non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, cervical cancer associated with the human papilloma virus and Kaposi Sarcoma. Preliminary results from a study focusing on the “Cost of Cancer” – commissioned by the Cancer Alliance – indicate an exponential increase in non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in particular in the next ten years. This will place an additional burden on a health care system that is already crippled. Timeous and correct diagnosis is crucial.   

Source: Percept Actuaries and Consultants, 2021

Rituximab is used in the treatment of CD20 positive B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This medicine is already available in the public sector. The availability of a biosimilar product is a welcome addition as it will improve competition. South Africa needs to urgently “Fix the Patent Laws” to make it possible to exclude new formulations and uses of existing medicines from patentability as is the case in other territories. The current subcutaneous patent, registered for Roche, will only expire in 2030.

Bendamustine was recommended by the WHO for inclusion on its Essential Medicine List for member states. Generic versions will only be available in the first quarter of 2021. Due to the affordability, this medicine cannot be added to the South African Essential Medicines List. Equitable access remains the primary focus for this medicine.

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