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Economy

Sh1 billion for free cancer medicine omitted from budget

The offer of free or subsidised drugs will ease the crippling cost of cancer medicines. FILE  PHOTO | NMG
The offer of free or subsidised drugs will ease the crippling cost of cancer medicines. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The Treasury has omitted Sh6 billion meant for free cancer medicines and construction of two referral hospitals in the budget for the year starting July.

The Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA) had advised the Treasury to set aside Sh5 billion for the referral centres and Sh1 billion to subsidise the cost of drugs for cancer patients.

But the Treasury told Parliament it omitted the cash from the budget because the allocation was not subjected to ministerial and Cabinet consultations and approval.

“Consultations with the Ministry of Health, which provides policy leadership on such matters, have not been concluded,” the Treasury told Parliament through the Division of Revenue Bill which shows the sharing of revenues between the national government and counties. 

“These proposals should be discussed and agreed in MTEF (Medium Term Expenditure Framework) sector hearings.”  

The framework is a three year plan that starts with a working group within ministries whose output is consolidated into a single document based on fund availability and priorities.

The document is later subjected to public hearings ahead of Treasury and parliamentary approval, with the Cabinet approving each stage of the process.

The omission of the cash comes at a time when cancer has emerged as the third top killer in Kenya after malaria and pneumonia.  “(The government) establishes a national cancer drug access programme at a cost of Sh1 billion annually.

“This will ensure that citizens diagnosed with cancer are treated and have access to necessary drugs, either for free or at subsidised costs,” CRA said in budgetary recommendations. The two referral centres were to ease the pressure on Kenyatta National Hospital, Moi Teaching Referral Hospital, and Nyeri Level Five Hospital. These public hospitals treat cancer through surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy or a combination of the options.

“Although a number of county referral hospitals can now diagnose cancer and undertake surgical operations, chemotherapy can only be done at either Kenyatta Referral Hospital or Nyeri Level Five Hospital. Radiotherapy can only be done at Kenyatta,” the CRA said.

The offer of free or subsidised drugs will ease the crippling cost of cancer medicines.

For instance, HER2 positive breast cancer patients take Herceptin drugs in addition to radiotherapy, chemotherapy and hormonal treatment.

One cycle of Herceptin ranges from Sh42,000 and Sh330,000 depending on the dosage and whether it is subsidised in public hospitals or not.

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