January 24, 2018, 1:29 am
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Renewed hope against lung cancer

THERE is hope for individuals diagnosed with lung cancer, a disease that claims more lives each year, according to Michael Alzona, MSD Philippines Market Access and Policy director.

This was the message echoed by MSD Philippines at its recent forum, Hope from Within: Test, Talk, Take Action.

Alzona noted patients often feel hopeless and helpless when diagnosed with lung cancer. 

 “But because of this development in medicine, there is now an immunotherapy, the newest treatment option for cancer patients. With this, there is a hope for cancer-stricken patients,” he said.

He added MSD Philippines works with the Department of Health (DOH), patient groups, non-government organizations, medical societies, etc. as it believes in taking a multi-sectoral approach in fighting lung cancer or other malignancies. Even groups of radiologists and pulmonologists should be tapped.

Alzona underscored the importance of testing to determine the appropriate action.

 “We want the patients to be tested earlier. They should go out and be tested. In fact, this is a message for everyone that when they get tested, they will have better options… Their doctors will have better recommendations when it comes to managing their state,” he explained.

He said lung cancer is a public health concern that needs to be addressed. “MSD Philippines wants to be an active stakeholder in addressing the top cause of cancer-related deaths by offering what it can offer – advocacy, treatment, etc.,” he added.

As a healthcare company, MSD Philippines’ mandate is to look for cures for unmet medical needs, he said.

He noted there is really no proven cure for cancer, “but we continue to invest on research, seek remedy and solutions that would help patients to improve the quality of life.”

During the forum, he cited the immunotherapy’s (biologic therapy) initial success in battling diseases such as lung cancer. “We have been hearing very good stories from the doctors about their patients who had a very good response to the new treatment option,” he said.

The immunotherapy is new, and MSD Philippines is informing and educating the public that there is another first-line treatment offered in the country.

 “However, we don’t have the statistics hitherto if there is a cutback on the disease. In terms of access in making this available to patients, it is still a challenge,”Alzona said.

 “This is not just about MSD Philippines and the medical community,” he added, noting the company is willing to help the government make this new treatment option available to patients.

He also said with the increase in DOH’s budget, the government is “investing on health at this moment and that enables them to provide more services to Filipino patients.”

Currently, the immunotherapy is not available in the DOH program. MSD Philippines is in the process of presenting evidence that this treatment is cost-effective for government to invest on.

Alzona said the number of Filipinos who tried the immunotherapy for lung cancer is still small. They are mostly from highly urbanized areas like Metro Manila, Cebu and Davao.
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