IBM Health Corps

Working to End Cancer Treatment Inequality in Sub-Saharan Africa

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The American Cancer Society (ACS) and the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) today announced two separate, groundbreaking market-access agreements with two major pharmaceutical manufacturers to expand access to 16 essential cancer treatment medications – including chemotherapies in sub-Saharan Africa. In her commentary below, IBM Corporate Citizenship Vice President Jen Crozier details the significance of this development, and the role IBM Health Corps – a new pro bono IBM Citizenship initiative – is playing with these partners to transform access to cancer treatment in sub-Saharan Africa.

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Around the world, where malaria and HIV once were the leading killers cancer has emerged as a new and growing crisis. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, more than 500,000 people died of cancer in 2015 – an annual death toll that is expected to double by 2030, according to the World Health Organization. Many of these patients have treatable cancers, but suffer and die needlessly because they lack access to effective chemotherapies or even pain relief. It is estimated that fewer than 10 percent of cancer patients in sub-Saharan Africa have access to treatment.

In many low-income countries, cancer medicines often are in short supply, prohibitively expensive or of poor quality. What is needed is a data-driven way for national health ministries to predict cancer caseloads so they can order the right chemotherapy treatments in quantities that give them access to competitive pricing, reliable stock levels and assured quality. Until now, that capability has been missing in many countries that are just beginning to focus on the complexity of cancer care planning after years of fighting communicable diseases.

It Takes a Village – IBM Health Corps collaborated with the American Cancer Society and Clinton Health Access Initiative to design ChemoQuant, software that helps countries with limited resources to forecast their cancer medicine needs. With the tool, public health officials can track local cancer trends and place chemotherapy orders that are timely and sizeable enough to qualify for volume discounts. Shown from left to right: Tom Eggebraaten, IBM; Meg O’Brien and Zelalem Gizachew, American Cancer Society; Michelle Ndebele and Jeff Grosz, Clinton Health Access Initiative.

IBM experts worked with the American Cancer Society (ACS) to design and build ChemoQuant – a free IBM cloud-hosted tool that helps ministries of health forecast chemotherapy needs more accurately. An initiative of IBM Health Corps, ChemoQuant draws upon IBM’s analytics, data science, and oncology epidemiology expertise to build forecasts. ChemoQuant helps health officials bring more accurate data into sourcing, budget and procurement planning. With this announcement, ChemoQuant will be instrumental in helping Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania forge agreements for access to therapies at significantly lower costs. These six countries account for nearly 44 percent of all cancer cases in sub-Saharan Africa each year.

Better data and greater availability of chemotherapy signal the beginning of a comprehensive and life-saving transformation of cancer care in sub-Saharan Africa, and eventually throughout other low-income settings. We cannot stand for inequality in cancer care. That’s why IBM’s “moonshot” to eradicate cancer addresses treatments and cures for all.

Jen Crozier is IBM’s vice president of Corporate Citizenship.

Related Resources:

ACS and CHAI Announce Collaborations to Increase Access to Lifesaving Cancer Treatment in Africa

Scientific American: Helping Cancer’s Forgotten Victims

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