St. Jude commits $200 million to provide quality cancer medicines for kids around the world

Doctors in Zimbabwe are sometimes forced to alter their treatment protocols for kids with cancer simply because the drugs they need aren’t available.

It’s the same dilemma that confronted an anguished mother in Moldova. Her plea to family and friends living abroad: help find the drugs doctors needed to treat her son.

“We were living in…the poorest country in Europe, where there are shortages in supplies and deficient quality of drugs,” said Natalia Vilcu whose son, Gheorghe, died of acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2019.

It’s why St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital will invest an estimated $200 million over six years to dramatically increase access to quality cancer medicines for children around the world in conjunction with the World Health Organization.

This global medicines access platform will be launched as a two-year pilot project, providing medication at no cost to 12 countries. By the end of 2027, it is expected 50 countries will receive childhood cancer medicines through the platform. It’s estimated 120,000 children could be impacted within the first six years, according to an announcement from the two organizations.

Each year, an estimated 400,000 children worldwide develop cancer, but a majority living in low- and middle-income countries are unable to consistently obtain or afford cancer medicines. As a result, nearly 100,000 children die each year.

“Close to 9 in 10 children with cancer live in low- and middle-income countries,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Ph.D., WHO director-general. “Survival in these countries is less than 30%, compared with 80% in high-income countries. This new platform, which builds on the success of the Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer launched with St. Jude in 2018, will help redress this unacceptable imbalance and give hope to many thousands of parents faced with the devastating reality of a child with cancer.”

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