THAI and other Asian healthcare markets will take priority for Pfizer’s breakthrough breat cancer drug Ibrance as the region makes up more than 55 per cent of global cases, top medical experts said this week.
Listed in New York, Pfizer is valued at US$205 billion (Bt6 trillion) with third quarter revenues of more than $12 billion.
“Thailand will be among the growing markets for Ibrance capsules because the Kingdom faces rising cancer cases,” said Dr Pichai Chansriwong of Ramathibodi Hospital.
“Fatal forms of cancer are growing at an alarming rate, he warned at the Esmo Oncology (cancer treatment) Symposium in Singapore.
Ibrance is expected to contribute as much as $2 billion in global sales this year, having crossed the billion-dollar mark in June.
“The biggest killers for Thai men are liver and lung diseases. For women, it is breast cancer,” said the doctor who also teaches at Manidol University.
“Cancer is also occurring among children,” he added. “The youngest patient we treated was an 11-year-old boy who died shortly after admission.”
The good news is now Thai women will be among the chief beneficiaries of Ibrance that can prolong life among terminal cases by two to five years, doctors at the symposium said.
“Ibrance stops cancer cells from spreading and is considered a breakthrough because it offers a new path for treating cancer without requiring chemotherapy,” Pichai explained.
“Current treatment using chemotherapy bombards the body with radiation, killing both harmful cells as well as healthy ones,” he said.
“Many doctors say such cures may be worse than the disease. While chemo may arrest cancer, its side effects could be fatal.”
Last month, Thailand became the latest Asian country to approve Ibrance and was welcomed as it dramatically changes the grim outlook for patients and their care givers.
“The drug is taken orally without chemotherapy, It allows patients to lead normal, productive lives,” Pichai said.
But the drug is not cheap, costing about Bt100,000 plus a month or roughly Bt1.2 million a year, he added.
Pfizer and Thai doctors are trying to make it more affordable by considering partial reimbursement. The pharma firm has also offered in some cases “a free 1-month trial”, he said.
“If the patient shows no improvement during the first konth, she can choose to stop without paying anything,” he said. “Chemotherapy will still be a cheaper form of treatment. It will continue to be used until more affordable generic forms arrive on the market.”
Doctors shared new information that show Asia will bear the brunt of a massive cancer scourge as populations migrate to cities, adopt unhealthy lifestyles and diets while suffering work stress that can brings on the disease.
“The good news is Asians are living longer. The bad news is cancer cases jump after age 45,” Dr Pichai warned.
In the Pacific, Australia has the highest cases of breast cancer with 86 women per 100,000; followed by Singapore with 66 and Taiwan with 65, said a recent survey by The Economist publication.
In Hong Kong, the statistic show 61 women per 100,000 have the disease while Japan and South Korea were not far behind with 52 cases each.
The rate for Thailand is 29 per 100,000 people, which is relatively low but the numbers are climbing fast, jumping 34 per cent each year.
The Kingdom’s’s breast cancer rates is now third highest in Asia, growing 34 per cent a year, according to statistics published by The Economist recently.
Malaysia, which has the sharpest rise in breast cancer, recorded a 49-per-cent spoke last year followed by Singpore with a 37 per cent spike.
China has the largest cancer cases with 3 million patients, because of its population size but the findings in the mainland show people tend to test for cancer late and the mortality rate is high at more than 70 per cent.
“We should also not forget the relief it brings to care givers, usually the family members, if the patient leads a normal life,” added Dr Pichai in an overview.
Of the 124,00 cancer cases in Thailand, 85,000 died, the IMS study showed.