The Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB) has approved the use of a prescription drug manufactured by Janssen, one of the pharmaceutical companies of Johnson & Johnson, for the treatment of prostate cancer.
The local pharmaceuticals regulator has approved the use of Janssen’s once-daily medication ZYTIGA (abiraterone acetate) for the treatment of metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer ahead of a chemotherapy regime.
The approval is expected to help boost ongoing efforts to minimize existing barriers to cancer care access.
The prescription-only innovator (non-generic) oncological management drug is distributed locally by Janssen Kenya as part of the global pharmaceutical firm’s commitment to enhance access of essential drugs.
Speaking, when he confirmed the recent approval, Janssen Kenya Country Manager Mr. Marseille Onyango, said prior to the approval, ZYTIGA had only been licensed for the treatment of advanced prostate cancer cases post-chemotherapy.
Onyango, while addressing medical professionals at Crown Plaza Hotel in Nairobi confirmed that ZYTIGA had progressively received international recognition as a broad indication treatment drug for prostate cancer.
“Globally, Janssen Pharmaceutical is dedicated to delivering therapeutic options with exceptional services,” Onyango said.
Earlier this year, Janssen Kenya had also received the nod from the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) which has listed ZYTIGA as a reimbursable innovator drug as part of a joint commitment by the two firms to enhance access of the crucial drug for local prostate cancer patients.
“The local approval by the Pharmacy and Poisons Board, for what we call in clinical terms; an expanded indication for ZYTIGA, helps fill a critical medical need, providing local physicians with an important tool for treating men with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer who have not received chemotherapy,” said Onyango.
“Under the Janssen Kenya Prostate cancer program in conjunction with Axios International, a specialized healthcare access company, ZYTIGA will continue being available for all patients including NHIF members who enjoy significant cost savings,” Onyango added.
Janssen Kenya Country Medical Affairs Manager Dr. Eric Muchangi expressed optimism that the drug will provide much-needed relief for prostate cancer patients and their families.
“ZYTIGA works by inhibiting the enzyme complex required for the production of androgens in the testes, adrenals, and the prostate tumor tissue,” Dr. Muchangi said.
“Having ZYTIGA as a new therapeutic option in Kenya, before chemotherapy will provide hope for patients with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer and their families as they continue to battle the disease,” Dr. Muchangi added.
Earlier this year, NHIF Claims and Benefits Manager, Mrs. Judy Otele, disclosed that with the Janssen Kenya Prostate cancer project, NHIF had successfully managed to negotiate the price reduction of ZYTIGA from 200,000 shillings to about 110,000 shillings.
The Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson is the world´s largest and most broadly-based healthcare company. Janssen envisions a world where cancer is a preventable, chronic or curable disease and is focused on developing solutions that prolong and improve patient lives to get there.
To ensure a coordinated response to cancer control in Kenya, the National Cancer Control Strategy (NCCS) 2017-2022 was developed to act as a framework to guide all stakeholders supporting cancer control in Kenya.
The strategy addresses the whole cancer ecosystem from prevention to survivorship and has 5 pillars namely: Prevention, Early Detection and Screening, Diagnosis, Registration and Surveillance, Treatment, Palliative Care and Survivorship, Coordination, Partnership and Financing, and Monitoring, Evaluation and Research.
Cancer is one of the major non-communicable diseases in Kenya and ranks third as a cause of death after infectious diseases and cardiovascular diseases.
It is estimated that there are 40,000 new cases annually and approximately 28,000 cancer-related deaths every year. More than 70 percent of cancer cases are diagnosed at a late stage when treatment outcomes are poor and palliative care is usually the only management amenable.
Currently, the NHIF care package entails up to 10 chemotherapy sessions, oral and injectable anti-cancer drugs, inpatient and outpatient oncology services, 20 sessions for radiotherapy, and up to two sessions for Brachytherapy for advanced cancer, per year. Among the health facilities that offer the package include some level five and six hospitals, and selected private hospitals in urban centers.
NHIF covers six sessions for the first-line treatment for up to 25,000 shillings per session, four sessions for the second and third-line treatment for up to 150,000 shillings per session and 20 sessions of radiotherapy at 3,600 shillings per session.
A biopsy is covered under the surgical package. Radiology is also done during the diagnosis stage, and this includes MRIs, ultrasounds, or CT scan and PET scan, also covered by NHIF.