Help all cancer patients, experts urge government
They want those under NHSO, SSO, CSMB to receive equal treatmentHealth experts want over 200,000 patients suffering from all types of cancer to be covered by the government's three healthcare funds with the same medical benefits.
"The government should make the three national healthcare funds - the National Health Security Office (NHSO), Social Security Office (SSO) and Comptroller General Depart-ment's Civil Servant Medical Benefit (CSMB) - provide the same treatment for cancer patients in a bid to reduce inequality among the funds and help patients access better treatment," Dr Pongsathorn Pokpermdee, an independent health economist, said.
According to the Public Health Ministry, cancer has been recorded as the leading cause of death among Thais since 2000. The ministry found that the number of cancer deaths increased drastically from 52,062 cases in 2006 to 58,076 cases in 2010. Liver cancer and cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer) have the highest mortality rate, followed by cancer of the larynx and lung cancer.
To provide medical treatment for patients suffering from cancer under the existing three national healthcare schemes, Pongsathorn said the NHSO would only provide anti-cancer drugs registered under the national drug list. It would consider case by case those patients who need life-saving cancer drugs that are outside the national drug list. However, the NHSO would cover chemotherapy.
Meanwhile, medical benefits un-der the SSO cover only seven types of cancer: breast cancer, cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, lung cancer, esopha-geal cancer, nasopharyngeal cancer and colon cancer. But the treatment and medicine depend on the consideration of each healthcare service unit or hospital registered with the SSO.
Patients registered with the CSMB can able to get expensive drugs and medication as the fund gets full reimbursement for treatment expenses from the government.
For example, those patients suffering from lymphoma cancer registered with the NHSO and SSO are not be able to get an expensive life-saving cancer drug such as rituximab, which costs about Bt80,000 per injection. Patients with lymphoma cancer need about six injections of the medication, which costs Bt480,000.
Meanwhile, patients with lymphoma cancer registered with the CSMB can get rituximab for treatment. To date, there are about 2,145 patients suffering from lymphoma cancer. Of this number, about 1,560 of them are registered with the NHSO and only 737 of them can get rituximab for treatment.
The NHSO earlier negotiated with the drugmaker to reduce the price of rituximab from Bt48,000 to Bt23,000, instead of imposing compulsory licensing. But the negotiation was cancelled by the government under the Democrat Party.
In a bid to help cancer patients access treatment, Pongsathorn said the government should equalise the three national healthcare funds and make them provide the same treatment. The government should also allow cancer patients to get expensive life-saving drugs for medication.
Pongsathorn will organise a press conference today to inform the public about inequalities in the system.
Public Health Minister Witthaya Buranasiri said the government was now studying the possibility of merging the medical benefits for cancer treatment under the three national healthcare schemes. However, he said the government would first merge healthcare benefits for HIV/Aids and chronic kidney disease. The government will hold a meeting to discuss this issue with the three national health scheme providers on Thursday.
NHSO secretary-general Dr Winai Sawasdhivorn said he proposed the idea to merge healthcare benefits for cancer treatment after he was appointed as secretary-general for a second term, but he did not have details yet of the plan and needed to do more study on the subject.
Dr Suradej Waleeittikul, deputy secretary-general of the SSO, said his agency already covers treatment for seven types of cancer. Extending healthcare coverage for all cancers was under consideration, Suradej said.