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Economy

Cancer, diabetes drugs lowered to Sh100 monthly from December

Health secretary James Macharia (left) exchanges documents with Novartis chairman Joerg Reinhardt after signing an MoU on low-cost drugs at the Kenyatta National Hospital, Nairobi on October 15, 2015. PHOTO | GERALD ADERSON
Health secretary James Macharia (left) exchanges documents with Novartis chairman Joerg Reinhardt after signing an MoU on low-cost drugs at the Kenyatta National Hospital, Nairobi on October 15, 2015. PHOTO | GERALD ADERSON 

Patients suffering from breast cancer, diabetes and heart diseases will buy drugs at Sh103 ($1) a month in a programme launched by pharmaceutical giant Novartis.

The low-cost drugs will be available from mid-December in government and private hospitals, easing the burden on households.

A monthly dose of cancer drugs manufactured by Novartis costs between $100 (Sh10,300) and $300 (Sh30,900) per month, according to several doctors. The cost is unaffordable to many ailing Kenyans due to poverty.

Kenya is the first country to benefit from the Novartis deal that will see 15 drugs sold at a dollar to 30 low- and middle-income countries.

“The successful implementation of the programme in Kenya will be essential to guide its expansion to other countries in future,” said Joerg Reinhardt, chairman of the board of Norvatis, during the launch Thursday.

“The medicines are among the most commonly prescribed.”

Mr Reinhardt did not disclose which drugs will be subsidised.

Other countries set to benefit include Ethiopia, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Sudan and Uganda.

“These four diseases are the leading causes of death globally, responsible for 60 per cent of all deaths,” said Health secretary James Macharia.

“They affect individuals at the most productive age that is vital for national building and it is in this regard that we are taking much interests in this public private initiative with Norvatis.”

Cancer is the third leading killer after malaria and pneumonia, according to the 2015 Economic Survey.

Official data shows cancer related deaths have been rising from 11,995 in 2010 to 14,175 in 2013.

Deaths from malaria, HIV/Aids and tuberculosis have been declining over the same period, reflecting the public health crisis brought home by cancer at a time when the country is reeling from a shortage of doctors and equipment that can handle the disease.

Poor diets and sedentary lifestyles are behind the rise in diabetic and heart patients as Kenya becomes increasingly urbanised.

“Adoption of unhealthy lifestyles such as tobacco use, consumption of unhealthy diets, insufficient physical activity and the harmful use of alcohol are some of the causes of these diseases,” said director of Medical Services Nicholas Muraguri.

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