IN A PREVIOUS COLUMN, we highlighted the efforts of the Cancer Coalition Philippines (CCPh) in urging Congress to pass a bill that will ensure quality health care for all Filipino children and adults with cancer. A national alliance of patient groups, health care providers, and advocates, CCPh is pushing for the enactment of a National Integrated Cancer Control Act, which increases investments for the prevention, early and accurate detection, and optimal treatment for all forms of cancer. The law also mandates the adoption of an integrated, multi-disciplinary, and patient/family-centered approach to cancer management.
Thanks to two recent moves by both Houses of Congress, the enactment of this important bill is now one step closer to becoming reality. Following the House of Representatives Committee on Health’s endorsement of a substitute bill for review, the Senate Committee on Health and Demography and the Senate Committee on Finance convened a Technical Working Group (TWG) to work on the proposed National Integrated Cancer Control Act. During a recent Senate hearing, TWG members Senators JV Ejercito, Nancy Binay, and Risa Hontiveros announced that their starting point would be Senate Bills No. 1545 (authored by Mr. Ejercito) and 1570 (authored by Senator Sonny Angara). Both bills seek to institutionalize national integrated cancer control in the country.
CCPh members, including former Secretary of Health Dr. Carmencita Reodica, attended the Senate hearing to support the passage of the cancer control bill as well as to present sobering facts and figures about cancer, the third leading cause of sickness and death in the country. According to the CCPh, lack of money is the major cause of treatment failure, i.e. failure to seek treatment, among Filipino cancer patients. Seven out of 10 discontinue treatment; eight out of 10 are unable to comply with treatment requirements and schedules; and more than half refuse or do not seek treatment. Among others, there is an urgent need to provide financial protection for patients and their families.
The CCPh warned that cancer poses a great threat to the country’s economic growth and development. Dr. Reodica appealed for immediate action from all concerned stakeholders in order to enact the National Integrated Cancer Control Act, and urged the Department of Health to make the law a flagship program.
Both Houses of Congress deserve credit for supporting the passage of the National Integrated Cancer Control Act. Aside from Senators Ejercito and Angara, other legislators who have sponsored cancer-related bills are representatives Alfred Vargas, Alexei B. Nograles, Jericho Nograles, Bernadette Herrera-Dy, Chiqui Roa-Puno, and Health Committee Chair Angelina Tan.
We hope that our legislators’ solidarity galvanizes the commitment of other stakeholders involved in the country’s fight against cancer. Let us all work together to enact the National Integrated Cancer Control Act. Filipino cancer patients, survivors, and their families are counting on us.
Teodoro B. Padilla is the executive director of Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP). Medicine Cabinet is a weekly PHAP column that aims to promote awareness on public health and health care-related issues. PHAP and its member companies represent the research-based pharmaceutical and health care industry.