Who dare say that progress should not be made, particularly today when change seems to be all pervading, in a fast developing country like ours. Treatment of cancer has to be as good as it is in the West, but available to all sections of the Indian society since most of the cancers do not keep a selective time table as to their unfortunate hosts and more importantly, we need to stop making the serious mistake of promoting social inequality again and again and again.
Treatment of Cancer in India today averagely costs between Rs 50,000 to 5 lakhs depending upon where it is being undertaken and what drugs/ technology is being used. ‘Herceptin,’ the magic bullet, treats breast cancer better, without hair loss, vomiting and is a part of this new class of monoclonal antibodies like Rituximab, Nimotuzumab, Bevacuzimab etc. which are, and will in future continue to be churned off the research stables of pharmaceutical and biotech corporations the world over. The role of these promising agents is evolving everyday in the treatment of breast, head and neck, colonic and lymphatic system cancers. To avail of this new exclusive targeted therapy, the hapless sufferer needs to currently shell out between Rs 6 lakhs to 10 lakhs. The end user price perhaps has to be high since one cannot dispute the extremely high financial input on cross- country trials, intricate R & D, United States FDA clearance and aggressive global marketing. Should then the poor never be fortunate enough to have the best go at their cancers? Our ‘Great Indian middle class’ is slowly using medical insurance for their deliverance, not that the medical insurance sector in our country has perfected its act. The rich are rich and therefore able to acquire expensive treatment. With an evolving healthcare, pharmaceutical, biomedical infrastructure and the small but certain possibility of India being a regional, if not a global medical destination. The rural and semi urban India is painfully aware of the quality & quantity of their health care rights. We are today as prepared for the future as perhaps we were for the sudden upsurge in our aviation industry. History cries out aloud that Government of India does finally wake up but much much later than it should have. Whom are we waiting for to develop strategies for these hapless cancer victims?
Indigenous research and development and expansions must not be nudged but shoved in the upward direction. Finances should run through the channels of well thought out public private participations, otherwise even the crores of rupees springing forth the Rural Healthcare Mission will run waste. The medical industry must mature in its thoughts vis-à-vis corporate social responsibility. Micro credit/ co-operative medical insurance is perhaps the only answer for our below the poverty line teeming millions. I wonder when, will thoughts of anguish convert into pillars of tomorrow’s gigantic homogenously healthy India. Soon enough I hope!
Dr Sameer Kaul