Cancer medicine becoming unaffordable

Wednesday, 3 April 2019 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


A lady, 70 years old was stricken with cancer few years ago. She is a spinster and was a maths teacher at a government school before retirement. I know the family well. They are respectable and socially responsible, determined as far as possible not to be a burden to the State or the public purse.

The lady was operated for the cancer and also underwent chemo treatment. All this was done at private hospitals. For her treatment she had to utilise most of her savings. However, as she occupied their own family home and lived frugally, she managed to maintain a decent living standard. She also has a brother and a sister in Australia, who support her. 

For cancer patients hormone treatment is crucial to keep the dreaded disease away.

The hormone tablet prescribed for her by the oncologist was Femara (Letrozole). She has to take a tablet every day. For this alone her monthly bill was a whopping Rs. 22,500. I believe her pension is about Rs. 40,000 a month. She is able to keep body and soul together only because of the periodic remittance she receives from her siblings in Australia.

Last week, when she went to the pharmacy this lady had a nasty shock. Her pharmacy (Healthguard) informed her that from next month her hormone tablets for the month will cost her Rs. 33,500! This is a 50% increase in just one month!

This proud lady does not want to be a burden to anyone and is now considering stopping her hormone tablets. That decision most likely is going to result in the reappearance of the dreaded disease and her early demise.

Watching our parliamentarians talking about various things I wonder whether they are even aware of the realities our people are facing. I have a lot of respect for this lady for never being a burden to the public. But it is really sad to watch good citizens deciding to give up on life simply because they can no longer afford their essential medicine.

Rohan Peiris