Access to affordable, safe, effective, quality medicines is part of every person’s human right to the best health possible. In fact, governments cannot achieve the goal of Universal Healthcare that they committed to achieve when they adopted the 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals without ensuring access to, and the availability of, medicines including cancer medicines.
Access to cancer medicines is a crucial issue for medical oncologists because it affects their daily practice and ability to treat patients according to the evidence-based ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines. For this reason, ESMO is addressing the topic of access to medicines at the European and global policy levels, and also developing tools and resources that can support countries in achieving sustainable cancer care. Since 2010, ESMO has gathered data on the availability of cancer medicines in Europe and internationally. The World Health Organization cited the ESMO studies as the most comprehensive assessment on the availability of cancer medicines globally in the 2018 WHO Technical Report on the pricing of cancer medicines and its impacts. The ESMO studies showed that internationally there is a growing disparity between licensed anti-cancer medicines and those that are actually available, leading to medicines shortages. As a result of the studies, ESMO formed a Cancer Medicines Committee to address the issues of both inexpensive, essential cancer medicines and new innovative, expensive cancer medicines.
To keep the voice of medical oncologists heard, ESMO delivers official statements, and supports resolutions, at WHO, UN, and EU meetings on the need to increase access to cancer medicines which are essential to providing quality cancer care. Additionally, ESMO has reviewed and proposed cancer medicines and biosimilars to the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines, which should be used by governments when developing their own national essential medicines lists.