Access to novel, highly-priced cancer medicines in low-resource settings – ethical challenges on the path to Universal Health Coverage

October 12th, 2016, 8am - 9am EDT


Safe, affordable access to novel cancer medicines is desirable in all health care systems. In most systems, however, funding of access to highly priced cancer medicines competes with funding of health care for other needs. Based on two recommendations of the World Health Organization, we will illustrate and discuss the challenges in decision-making on access to cancer treatments. The WHO framework on making fair choices on the path to universal health coverage suggests that it is unfair to expand coverage (including reducing out-of-pocket payments) for low- or medium-priority services (e.g., cancer care) before there is near universal coverage for high-priority services. The 2015 WHO Model List of Essential Medicines recommends the inclusion of branded targeted cancer medicines in national essential medicines lists and thus coverage systems.

In this Webinar, we will lay out the main ethical and medicines issues around cancer care coverage from a health systems perspective. Senior decision makers from low and middle-income countries will share their experiences with providing cancer treatments in low resource settings and webinar participants will be able to share their perspectives.

  • Please join us for a lively panel discussion during which you can share your perspectives on:

  • providing access to highly-priced cancer medicines in different health systems;

  • addressing the ethical dilemmas in providing and not providing access to highly priced medicines for relatively few patients when many patients lack basic coverage;

  • identifying a long-term policy research agenda on these topics for members of the HSG research community.


Drs. Anita Wagner and Christine Leopold, Harvard Medical School, will moderate the discussion.

This webinar will inform the organized session on “Access to Novel, High-Cost Cancer Medicines – Towards a More Holistic Ethical and Practical Framework for Health System Decisions” at the Fourth Global Symposium of Health Systems Research in November 2016. The webinar is organized by the Health Systems Global Thematic Working Group (TWG) on Medicines in Health Systems. To find out more about and join the group, please visit the Medicines in Health Systems TWG webpage or contact Sarah McAnaw ([email protected]).

If you could not attend the webinar:

You can watch recorded session here.

Also find presentation slides used in the webinar here.


Image credit: Travis WiseCreative Commons license 2.0