SAO PAULO – The pharmaceutical industry must redouble its efforts to develop innovative medications that prolong the lives of people and collaborate in improving access to the treatments in Latin America.
“The industry can work, as it has to date, to create therapies that prolong life and even achieve the cure for cancer because so far there is no cure for various kinds” of that disease, Rolf Hoenger, Roche’s Latin America chief, told EFE in an interview on Thursday.
Hoenger said that science to date has raised the hopes of patients who have found in personalized and innovative therapies the cure for illnesses that in earlier times were a death sentence.
“That’s the case with breast cancer. Now, 80 percent of the women who suffer from it and are treated in a timely way manage to live,” he said.
Hoenger, who is participating in Roche Press Day 2019, which is designed to inform Latin American journalists on health matters, said that the main challenge right now is for more patients to get access to these beneficial drugs and treatments, although that also depends on the type of disease.
He said that the industry must also play a fundamental role in raising society’s awareness and in cooperating with top health officials to bring better therapy to the patients who need it.
“If awareness doesn’t exists among patients it’s difficult to get a diagnosis, but when they do so they encounter the fact that the services are not available for them, causing them to lose valuable time at the beginning of their treatment,” he lamented.
Hoenger noted that breast cancer that is treated in a timely way is 100 percent curable, which not only represents a benefit for patients who can live longer but also lower costs for the healthcare system.
“In the early stages, the expenses on a patient with this type of disease are 25 percent compared to what would be spent when it’s detected in a metastatic phase,” he said.
However, he added that the challenge is great, since the situation of each patient must be analyzed to detect that person’s needs and then appropriate solutions must be sought.
“You have to do a city by city, country by country analysis so that, along with governments, we see what the problems are and how to resolve them. By doing this we can get better results,” he said.
Along with that, he admitted that one of the most important contributions that firms like Roche have made to health care systems is the collection of data, since gaps still exist there.
Along those lines, Lenio Alvarenga, the medical director for Roche Brasil, emphasized the importance of getting data, since when this information is analyzed “it allows us to better attend to the needs of the patients.”
This has resulted in identifying the mutations that exist in various diseases such as breast and lung cancer.
“However, our idea is to increase knowledge, compile the ... data from patients and have an effect on other diseases,” he said.
“We’re seeing that more and more different types of cancer are controllable, but we must continue working and making efforts so that fewer and fewer people die from this disease,” Alvarenga said.