To celebrate the second anniversary of the enactment of the Republic Act 11215 or the National Integrated Cancer Control Act (NICCA), the Cancer Coalition Philippines (CCPh) and members of the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP) organized a series of multi-stakeholder fora to shed light on the challenges faced by cancer patients and their families in the time of the pandemic, and discuss updates regarding the implementation of the NICCA law.
“This landmark legislation addresses strategic gaps in the country’s cancer control program including making cancer treatment and medicines more affordable and accessible, leading to a more positive health outcome, increasing survivorship, reducing incidence, lessening mortality, and improving the well-being of patients and their family”, emphasized Mr. Paul Perez, CCPh President.
NICCA implementation: are we there yet?
Funding is a critical component for the full implementation of the law. Dr. Corazon Ngelangel, President of the Philippine Cancer Society, highlighted that adequate funds are needed to establish the cancer assistance fund in order to achieve the 30% reduction in mortality goal, a commitment of the Philippines towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
“We cannot adhere to this if we fall short of the baseline Php 700M which the legislation did agree”, Dr. Ngelangel added. Congress approved an initial budget of Php 756M for the national cancer care program.
According to Dr. Ngelangel, the Department of Health (DOH) has started implementing the directives of NICCA on a network of cancer centers and the Philippine Cancer Center for the expansion of the medicine access program.
Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje noted how the NICCA complements the DOH Cancer Program. The latter has been advocating for prevention, awareness, and treatment of cancer. Through the provision of NICCA, a national council will be established and convened to act as the mandating agency for the fund.
“Hopefully we can see the National Cancer Council by the first quarter. Establish the National Cancer Council to define rules of engagement and complement the national cancer assistance fund. Coordinate with LGUs and hospitals with cancer care centers”, added Usec. Cabotaje.
Meanwhile, National Council for Disability Affairs (NCDA) Executive Director Emerito Rojas shared another good news with updates on the provision of issuance of the Persons with Disability (PWD) ID card for cancer patients. The ID card contributes to the financial and medical assistance that cancer patients need.
“All cancer patients, [those] living with cancer, and cancer survivors should be considered PWDs. There will be a meeting with DOH to speed up the guidelines to implement the provision of the NICCA for PWD card. Under the law, all PWDs will have free Philhealth coverage”, noted Rojas.
More hopeful tomorrows
Collaboration is key in fighting cancer. The healthcare industry and advocacy groups, and the entire cancer community continuously work together to provide information on prevention, early diagnosis, and palliative care. Information and awareness around cancer treatments are also emphasized to further assist patients. Collective action is likewise necessary for ensuring the funding and implementing the law so that more Filipino cancer patients can access more cancer treatment options for better outcomes.
For its part, MSD in the Philippines’ cancer advocacy program, Hope From Within, introduced the Cancer Game Plan, a health impact projection model that uses local data sets to uncover cancer outcomes and bring to light how innovative treatment options such as immunotherapy can provide cancer patients quality of life and improve their overall survival.
The Cancer Game Plan Report reveals that if innovative treatment options can reach more patients, patients can enjoy additional life-years, progression-free life years, quality-adjusted life years, and lesser adverse events, overall leading to improved health gains of patients between five- and ten-fold. These promising results can make all the difference for patients and can bolster the preparedness of the Philippines as a whole in facing cancer.
The implementation of NICCA plays a major role in giving cancer patients better, equitable, and affordable access to cancer treatment, which includes gaining access to the full cancer registry. If put into practice and given the right funding, it can help in addressing long-term sustainable access to more treatment options.
Government officials also expressed the role of collaboration and synergy in achieving public health goals and programs.
Muntinlupa City Representative Rozzano Rufino Biazon and Quirino Governor Dakila Carlo Cua emphasized that synergy and good relationships between legislators and local chief executives play a key role in accessing funds for the healthcare programs.
“With NICCA and UHC firmly in place, now is the time to redouble our efforts in moving forward with our goals of advancing and expanding cancer care in the Philippines. We have seen the critical nature of public health and the strength of our nation,” said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III. “We are ministers of public health. It is our duty to realize a Philippines where everyone is healthy and healthcare is accessible to all.”
The public can also show their show support for the implementation and proper funding of the Cancer Law by signing the PSMO petition: http://chng.it/p6bkHQ2FBk and by visiting https://hopefromwithin.org/ for more information on how they can help someone battling the disease.