Lymphoma and Bendamustine and Rituximab access in South Africa
Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL) is classified as an AIDS defining cancer, as it is highly prevalent among cancer patients living with HIV. This is because HIV suppresses the immune system which makes people living with HIV (PLWHIV) much more susceptible to viruses which cause cancer, such as the Epstein–Barr virus which can cause NHL. 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.
The patent protection for Bendamustine, registered by Cephalon/Astellas, will only expire in 2032. Bendamustine was recommended by the WHO for inclusion on its Essential Medicine List for member states, but South Africa’s patent laws mean that it is unaffordable in the public sector. South Africa needs to urgently “Fix the Patent Laws” to follow international best practice and make it possible to exclude new formulations and uses of existing medicines from patentability.