Under the auspices of a wide-ranging Vision 2030 economic transformation plan, Egypt is moving towards covering the entirety of its 100 million plus population under a universal healthcare insurance scheme. Via direct presidential initiatives, the country has also made significant progress in tackling diseases like hepatitis C and breast cancer, with domestic pharma industry insiders optimistic that such schemes can be successfully rolled out to other disease areas.
Egypt National Multisectoral Action Plan for Prevention and Control of NCDs
Launched in 2018, this Plan aims to achieve a 15 percent in premature mortality from noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) by 2022 via earlier diagnosis, more effective treatment, and a decrease in risk factors. NCDs are a major problem in Egypt, accounting for 85 percent of all deaths. Cardiovascular diseases make up a full 46 percent of all mortalities in Egypt, with cancer at 14 percent, according to Mohamed Alorabi and Hagar Elghazawy, writing in the ASCO Post. In 2018, there were about 134,632 new cancer cases and 89,042 cancer-related deaths in Egypt.
The Plan involves, among other actions, the creation of a national cancer committee with responsibility for the development and implementation of a national cancer control plan, improvements to Egypt’s National Cancer Registry program, and an increase in the small number of centres that provide palliative care to cancer patients.
100 Million Healthy Lives
Launched in 2018, this campaign focuses on screening and treatment for hepatitis C (HCV), hypertension, diabetes, and obesity; all of which have strong correlations with cancer incidence. Of the world’s 20 most populous countries, Egypt has the highest obesity rate and the diabetes prevalence among Egyptian adults stands at 15.6 percent.
The presidential initiative to detect and treat HCV in Egypt is a great success story as we have almost no new HCV cases today
Representing the world’s most extensive HCV screening and treatment program, the 100 Million Healthy Lives campaign has had a huge impact, as Amgen’s Ahmed Kishta recently told PharmaBoardroom. “Egypt used to have an extremely high prevalence of HCV which naturally came with a huge societal and economic burden. The presidential initiative to detect and treat HCV in Egypt is a great success story as we have almost no new HCV cases today.”
Women Health Outreach Program
First initiated back in October 2007, the Women Health Outreach program offered free mammograms for Egyptian women aged 45 and over as well as screening for diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. Rolled out via fully equipped mammography vans, over 20,000 women were screened for breast cancer between October 2007 and February 2009, with free treatment was offered to those in whom breast cancer was detected.
Breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer among Egyptian women, with median age at diagnosis one decade younger than in Europe and North America. Most patients are premenopausal, meaning that breast cancer in Egypt has significant familial, societal, and economic consequences, as Aalaa Abdou points out in Middle East Medical.
More than 15 million women have been screened in a record time and those that have been detected received the best diagnosis and treatment options available at the global level
The 100 Million Healthy Lives campaign further boosted Egypt’s breast cancer screening efforts, with a nationwide campaign starting in July 2019.
For Roche’s Mohamed Swilam, this has been a hugely positive development. “The quality of care that women with breast cancer receive in Egypt today and the outcomes achieved represent a big success story,” he proclaims. “More than 15 million women have been screened in a record time and those that have been detected received the best diagnosis and treatment options available at the global level. I am proud as an Egyptian and I am also proud that Roche Egypt has a stake in this success story.”
Industry stakeholders are hopeful that the significant progress made on HCV and breast cancer in Egypt can continue in other disease areas. Amgen’s Kishta notes that “key presidential initiatives have had a significant impact on people’s lives. For example, more than 15 million women were screened for breast cancer. This is in addition to initiatives covering lung and colorectal cancer and I hope these presidential initiatives expand to more disease areas that severely impact the lives of Egyptians. These early successes are an indicator that we are on the right path.”
We understand the burden of the diseases beyond just the patient when it comes to cancer
Hatem Ismail of Bayer adds that “In the last couple of years, we entered a partnership with the Minister of Health and Population (MOHP) to provide new and innovative treatments for patients with liver cancer – which can be linked to HCV. The partnership was not only to provide treatment and medication, but to educate healthcare professionals and enable access to early diagnosis of the disease. After six months of studying this partnership, we treated almost 2000 patients. We understand the burden of the diseases beyond just the patient when it comes to cancer.”
Roche’s Swilam concludes, “We continue to work closely with the Government of Egypt on similar initiatives [to that for breast cancer]. In the past we supported the journey to eliminate HCV in Egypt, and now we are supporting the government in the management of difficult-to-treat diseases like multiple sclerosis, haemophilia, haematological diseases, the most prevalent types of cancer and most recently our youngest patients with spinal muscular atrophy.”