Hyderabad: There are three molecules of immunotherapy drugs that are available for cancer treatment in India. The costs, however, are a major constraint since it can range from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 2.5 lakh per dose making it extremely expensive.
There are more than 20 drugs which are at different stages of clinical trials and the results of these will determine whether the costs of immunotherapy drugs will come down.
Immunotherapy or targeted therapy is a personalized treatment where the immune cells in the body are enhanced to fight and destroy the cancer cells. Senior Surgical Oncologist at Omega Hospitals Dr Mohana Vamsy explained, “Immunotherapy has shown good results in treating cancer patients. This mechanism of boosting the immune system to fight cancer cells has worked in lung, kidney and blood cancer. The cancer cells are found to bind themselves together and the immune system was not able to fight it but these drugs ensure that they do not bind and that is proving to be effective.”
“But the costs are a major constrain. It is still not clear how many therapies a patient will require as the treatment can last from six months to one year. That would be very expensive for most of the patients,” the doctor added.
The minimum cost of one cycle is Rs 1 lakh and can go up to the maximum cost of Rs 4 lakh as they are patent drugs. Each cycle has to be repeated in 21 days depending on the recovery that has been seen. On an average three to four cycles will be required and could extend further if there are still cancer cells in the body.
Due to the increasing cancer cases in India, some companies are offering the tests at a subsidized price. But it is only applicable to a few patients whose cancer markers are in stage 2 or stage 3 where the chances of recovery are assessed by the oncologists. Patents for these immunotherapy drugs will take another 10 years to expire and for them to be affordable to Indians will take quite some time said oncologists.
Senior oncologist Dr Srinivas C explained, “Immunotherapy has come across as an effective treatment and proved to be much better than chemotherapy and radiation. But the costs make it extremely difficult to make it affordable.”
In the various cancer conferences, there have been appeals to the government to work out a system wherein these medicines can be made affordable to patients. The incidence of cancer in India is 107 per 1, 00,000 cases and the rising incidence makes it extremely important for patients to get effective treatment....