According to oncologist Jorge Ignacio, chair of the Philippine General Hospital’s Cancer Institute, they have been waiting for the implementation of the law, which contains provisions that are badly needed by Filipinos with cancer and their families.
The STAR/Edd Gumban, File photo
Anti-cancer law remains unimplemented, advocates say
Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) - February 27, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — More than a year after the National Integrated Cancer Control Act was approved by Congress, doctors and anti-cancer advocates lamented yesterday that it has not yet been fully implemented.

According to oncologist Jorge Ignacio, chair of the Philippine General Hospital’s Cancer Institute, they have been waiting for the implementation of the law, which contains provisions that are badly needed by Filipinos with cancer and their families.

Ignacio said one of these provisions effectively amends the Philippine Drug Formulary, which contains the list of medicines that government hospitals could purchase. 

He maintained there are new medicines not yet included in the current formulary. 

“So even if there are medicines which we think are good for our patients, we cannot give it to them,” he noted during the Kapihan sa Manila Bay media forum at the Cafe Adriatico in Manila yesterday. 

Ignacio added that most cancers, like breast cancer, are preventable and curable if detected early and treated properly. 

Cancer Fund

For her part, Philippine Cancer Society executive director Rachael Marie Rosario said they were also looking forward to the approval of the budget for the Cancer Assistance Fund as mandated by law.

“The budget is still up in the air... but patients are already looking for funds,” he added.

Rosario underscored that it is not indicated in the law how much should be earmarked for the fund but they recommended an initial P500 million to P2 billion. 

She maintained it is now a crucial period for the Philippines to strengthen its programs against cancer as cases are on the rise. 

Ignacio said the law is intended to ensure that even poor patients can access expensive treatment. He cited immunotherapy, for instance, which costs around P100,000 to P300,000 every three weeks. 

“If the prices of medicine will remain high, overcoming cancer will only be the privilege of the rich because they are the ones who can afford treatment. What we envision is for everyone to have equal access to treatment,” he added.

According to Cancer Coalition president Paul Perez, six months have passed since the implementing rules and regulations of the law came out but the Cancer Council has not been established.

He said the creation of the council is vital because it is supposed to oversee the implementation of the law.

Under the law, the council shall be composed of 12 members, two of whom must come from doctors’ groups and three from patient organizations.

Perez complained there are some obstacles to the implementation of the law and one of them is the lack of guidelines on the declaration of cancer patients and survivors as “persons with disability” or PWD.

“We are trying to secure specific guidelines on how they can avail of PWD benefits. Many are looking for this because it has been promised in the law,” he added.  

PHILIPPINE CANCER SOCIETY E PWD
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