Cancer patients who cannot afford treatment silently await death because there is no drug for specific types of cancer in Papua New Guinea.
This was what cancer patient Jack Tom told this newspaper recently while waiting to get treatment at the Port Moresby General Hospital.
“After I was told I was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer in one of the hospitals overseas, my family did not want to see me suffer so the doctor who attended to me advised that the only way to survive was to purchase my own cancer drug as it is not available in the country,’’ Tom said.
“When I returned to Port Moresby to continue my treatment at the hospital, I was told that there were no cancer drugs for my case so I am now digging deep into my pocket to purchase drugs such as Avastin as it is commonly known.
“I feel bad and guilty when I sit with the other cancer patients waiting to get treated because most of them cannot afford to buy these drugs.”
He said he received his first dose of chemotherapy in Manila and was advised to purchase the rest of three other doses out of his own pocket in PNG.”
According to Mr Tom’s wife Mary, their family and friends have been raising funds to help purchase these drugs.
“The targeted medicine to target the cancer cells was something that was offered to him as the advance treatment if we were to improve on the status of the cancer which is in its fourth stage,’’ Mary said.
“We have agreed to it to help ease the pain he is going through and save his life although it is expensive.
“We will come to the hospital to get his treatment via intravenous and after this treatment, he will have to take another tablet for 14 days.”
From observations during their visits to the hospital, she said the health workers have advised these cancer patients that depending on the type of cancer, the doctors will prescribe the drugs.
“For us, it will take Mr Tom three cycle thing to take these drugs,’’ Mary said.
“We also found out that there are no drugs for this sort of cancer at PMGH and all the pharmacies in the country take orders from patients and it takes two to three weeks for these drugs to arrive.
“If people have the money, it will help to save a cancer patient, if they do not, we just have to wait till he or she dies.”
She said the cost of the targeted drug is worth K12,000 for a 400 Mg/mL and for any ordinary Papua New Guinean cancer patients and those who are uneducated, it is beyond their means.
PMGH chief executive officer Dr Umesh Gupta in response to this said chemotherapy is not one single medicine as there are many chemo drugs and they are the most costly drugs in medicine.
“Any government in any country including Australia cannot provide all chemo drugs free of cost,’’ Dr Gupta said.
“Port Moresby General Hospital does not charge for any chemo drugs.
“We give what we have and the doctors may write a prescription for what they don’t have.
“Some drugs are available and some are not.”
When asked to specify the exact drugs available and which are not available, he said there are more than 750 chemo drugs.
“In the same way, there are more than 5000 drugs in the pharmacopeia,’’ he said.
“Does the public expect all 5000 drugs to be made available free of cost, the answer is no country in the world can afford that.
“It is simply impractical.” THe National
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