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Health minister aims to reduce cost of cancer treatment

Pharmaceutical companies could be pressured into reducing costs, if the health minister has his way.

Health minister Aaron Motsoaledi. Picture: Christa Eybers/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - Pharmaceutical companies could be pressured into significantly reducing the cost of cancer medication if the health minister has his way.

Introducing his department's budget vote in Parliament yesterday, Aaron Motsoaledi called for solidarity as they try to reduce the cost of cancer medicine, the same way the cost of ARVs was made affordable in the country.

Motsoaledi says in an effort to tackle the problem globally, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has established a high level panel on access to medicines and South Africa is represented on the structure.

South Africa took a major step towards protecting girls from cervical cancer when government launched its HPV campaign after striking a deal with drug producers.

Motsoaledi explained the roll-out was possible because the department approached the industry with an offer.

"So what we did, we went to the company and said the medicines will just stay here on the shelf so let's negotiate. We are guaranteeing you half a million school kids per annum forever."

He has now turned his attention to breast cancer patients on treatment known commonly as Herceptin, which costs R500,000 for a year's treatment.

"Do you imagine how painful is it to look at a woman suffering from breast cancer and she can be helped by Herceptin, but she needs half a million rand? So we are going to do the same thing we did with HPV and I've already started."

Motsoaledi has initiated talks with a major pharmaceutical company in an attempt to bring down the cost of this treatment.