With the commemoration of the World Cancer Day and the second anniversary of the landmark National  Integrated  Cancer  Control  Act  of  2019  (NICCA),  the  Cancer  Coalition  Philippines (CCPh)  and  members  of  the  Pharmaceutical  and  Healthcare  Association  of  the  Philippines (PHAP) together with the Department of Health (DOH) will hold a series of virtual fora to put a spotlight on the current plight of cancer patients in the country.

The  forum  with  the  theme  “Cancer  Conversations:  Navigating  Cancer  with  Patients”  on February 4aims to support patients’ increased understanding, and update information on where to  get  assistance  during  the  pandemic.  The  forum  will  also  revisit  the implementation  of the NICCA,  an  internationally  acclaimed  law  for  comprehensively  mapping  the  path  forward  to strengthen  cancer control,  increase cancer survivorship  and reduce  the burden  on  patients and families.  The forum  will have  five  sessions: Session  1  will  provide  an overview of the cancer situation in the Philippines and its challenges, and will talk about how the cancer law could be a gamechanger  for  cancer  care  in  the  country.  Meanwhile,  sessions  2  –  5  will  feature  various scopes  on  the  available  support  and  resources  and  addressing  early signs  of symptoms  to be discussed with notable speakers.

“The  COVID-19  pandemic  revealed  the  strengths  and  weaknesses  of  our  healthcare  system. Over   the   years,  cancer   awareness   groups  have   been  advocating   cancer  care  prevention, screening, early detection, and access to palliative care. Through this forum, cancer patients can share  the  challenges  they  faced  during  the  pandemic and what resources  became available  to them. In addition to this, cancer patients and their families are looking forward to a hopeful life journey  because equitable  and affordable  cancer treatment and  care are provided for under the cancer  law.  We  share  in  the  call  for  its  full  implementation  so  that  patients  need  not  wait anymore,” CCPh President Paul Perez remarked.

PHAP Executive Director Teodoro Padilla added, “In the face of the pandemic, we see how the pharmaceutical industry is  working together  and harnessing innovation to find viable vaccines, treatments and diagnostics for COVID-19. As we gain momentum in our pandemic response, we remember  our  commitment  to cancer  patients who  have also  been  impacted by  the  pandemic. They   have   long  delayed  visits  to  healthcare  professionals  and  facilities,  as  well  as  their treatments.  We  could  better  strengthen  our  fight  against  COVID-19  if  we  protect  vulnerable groups like our cancer patients and their families. We are honored to partner with the Department of   Health   and   the   Cancer   Coalition   Philippines   for   this   platform   where   we   develop comprehensive, sustainable measures to strengthen the country’s healthcare system now.”

“This joint initiative aims to provide patients with more insights on available funding resources and  know more  about  the status of  the NICCA review moving  forward. Ultimately, it aims to offer  hope and information to patients, as well as their families,” Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said.

Almost  a year since the  quarantine was imposed across the country, the pandemic continues to expose  vulnerable  populations, including  cancer patients  and their families.  In the Philippines, cancer is the  second leading cause of death after heart disease. The World Health Organization (WHO)  International  Agency  for  Research on  Cancer  reports  that more  than  90,000  Filipinos died of cancer and more than 150,000 new cancer patients added.

“This pandemic  has underscored the importance of a strong and reliable health care system for any  given country,  but with landmark laws such as the National Integrated Cancer Control Act and  the Universal Healthcare Law,  we will  ensure that  we build a health system that provides quality  health care without  financial hardship for  every Filipino, including our cancer patients. As  we  continue  fighting  the  pandemic, the  DOH, together with  its partners, shall continue to provide early and sufficient access to cancer medicines and ensure the highest possible chance of survival among people with cancer,” Sec. Duque said.

This  free  forum  is  made  possible  by  MSD,  Pfizer,  Roche,  Takeda,  Boehringer  Ingelheim, Novartis   and   Johnson   &  Johnson   with  support   from  ANC  (ABS-CBN   News  Channel), BusinessMirror, BusinessWorld, and The Philippines Graphic.

The  second  forum  is  scheduled on  February 10  with the  theme “In-Depth Discussions: From Policy to Meaningful Action.”.

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