Partnership to save lives from cancer


CANCER is a huge public health burden and many in the country have died or are dying from it silently.
The present global pandemic only makes healthcare for patients suffering from other diseases like cance difficult or even hastens mortality.
Dr Peter Olali at the Port Moresby General Hospital Cancer Clinic is very thankful for a life-saving three-way partnership that now ensures that critical cancer medicines are delivered to patients throughout the country.
Apart from other cancer treatments, Dr Olali’s clinic is the only one in the country that is able to deal with the various forms of leukemia or cancer of the blood. There are various subtypes of leukemia and in PNG most cannot be treated. However, there are others that can be treated and one of them is the Chronic Myeloid Leukemia(CML). With the introduction of a new target drug called Imatinib Mesylate(Glivec), many people in PNG diagnosed with CML are now being treated with this drug and are doing really well. However, this drug is pretty much out of the reach of most Papua New Guineans, even the working class.
Patients from all around the country get referred to the Port Moresby Cancer Clinic where they undergo the initial two-three month treatment for CML and when they get better are sent back to their provinces to continue the treament
Dr Olali says Glivec is a target medicine which blocks off specific genes that mutated and are responsible for causing CML . It is a very expensive medicine and most citizens cannot be able to afford it.
Because of the cost involved a global non-governmental organisation called Max Foundation procures and supplies it free of charge to countries who are unable to source it themselves, Papua New Guinea included. The Port Moresby clinic gets its supplies from the Thailand branch of Max Foundation.
Patients coming to the cancer clinic are registered through the Glivec International Patient Assistance Programme, commonly known by its acronym GIPAP to be supplied with this special cancer treatment.
The cancer clinic has in the past sourced this vital Glivec treatment for CML from the Kudjip Nazarene Hospital in Jiwaka which is currently the
only organisation that has the authority to source it.
Recently, through a partnership between Sesago Healthcare Ltd, Post PNG and Port Moresby General Hospital, the transporting the medicine supplies from Kudjip out of the Kagamuga Airport to Port Moresby is a lot more quicker.
Dr Olali says so far at least 70 boxes of Glivec have arrived at the cancer clinic through this pathway.
Under a memorandum of agreement between the three parties, Post PNG transports the medicines from Mt Hagen to Port Moresby and invoices Sesago monthly to pay for the logistics involved.
Post PNG also delivers the CML treatment from the Port Moresby cancer clinic to patients throughout the country. And patients only need to present identification at their local post offices to collect their treatments.
The arrangement has been in place for over three months now and at least four leukemia patients are able to get their medicines when they need them.
Unfortunately, because of the Covid-19 state of emergency and the temporary halt to air travel, one patient in Vanimo, has passed away because treatment was not delivered on time, according to Dr Olali.
He says cancer drugs are costly and even getting them from the Government’s procurement and medical supply systems is not 100 per cent effective.
“Cancer drugs from government supplies didn’t always arrive on time but with the arrangement between Post PNG and Sesago we now get our medicines on time.
“Sesago is always there to help us, not only the cancer clinic but the whole hospital (PMGH),” Dr Olali says.
He says the Max Foundation is quite pleased with the initiative that is saving lives in the country and will be supply other drugs in future to be distributed to patient using the arrangement in place.
Vincent Kora from Post PNG Ltd reports that a patient in Buka is grateful that she is able to receive her treatment on time over the counter at Buka Post Office in Bougainville.
The patient, Catholic nun Sister Rita told Post PNG: “I am very happy with the initiative Post PNG has taken with Sesago Healthcare and the cancer clinic to ship my drugs to Buka Post Offie for me to collect them here. I don’t have to travel to Port Moresby to get this medicine and it makes it easy for me including other patients here through this wonderful initiative.”
Kora says the patient is very happy and now can rely on this arrangement between the cancer clinic, Sesago and Post PNG in bringing the drugs directly to her and other patients around the country.
Sesago Healthcare Ltd Sales and Marketing Manager Pradeep Panda says the company has assisted not only the cancer clinic but also the whole Port Moresby General Hospital in the past and also during the current Covid-19 pandemic.
The company has also supplied Gerehu General Hospital in NCD with mattresses and pillows for patients and plans to do more in support of public healthcare services in future.
In ensuring its compliance to international and national qualitystandards, Sesago Healthcare Ltd has received the first seven marketing authorisation certificates from the Department of Health for some of its products so far with more to follow, says Panda.