It is estimated that approximately 400,000 children develop cancer each year, approximately only half of whom are diagnosed. Close to 90% of them live in low- and middle- income countries (LMICs), where survival rates are less than 30%.
The Global Platform for Access to Childhood Cancer Medicines is a joint effort by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the World Health Organization to end disparities in access to safe and effective medicines to treat children with cancer. Working with many collaborators worldwide, this platform will offer a comprehensive solution that forecasts the needs of individual countries and provides the mechanism through which quality and safe medicines are procured and distributed. The platform will provide an uninterrupted supply of quality-assured cancer medicines to treat children in low- and middle- income countries (LMICs). The development and implementation of this platform will follow a phased approach.
The Global Platform for Access to Childhood Cancer Medicines brings St. Jude, the World Health Organization, governments, the pharmaceutical industry, non-governmental organizations, and nonprofit sector decisionmakers together in a truly collaborative spirit to co-design a platform that will be sustainable. It is unique in its size and scope, catalyzed by a $200 million commitment from St. Jude that will restructure the market to better respond to the needs of children with cancer and their providers. We believe this platform not only will transform access to childhood cancer medicines, but also will serve as a model for the broader global health community in how we might work together to address global health challenges in access to care for non-communicable diseases.
Many hospitals treating children with cancer across the world struggle to consistently access quality-assured, effective, and affordable medicines for their patients. Although essential medicine availability is a global challenge, an analysis of the market has shown hospitals in low- and middle- income countries (LMICs) face the most severe consequences pertaining to cancer medicines. Children with cancer may lack access to essential curative treatments or have prolonged interruptions in therapy thus increasing their risk of dying.
The St. Jude Board of Governors has approved a six-year, $200 million investment to support the development and launch of the platform. This is the largest financial commitment for a global childhood cancer medicines project to date. St. Jude is committed to the success of this important endeavor. Moving forward, stakeholders may choose to contribute additional funds to ensure its success and/or collaborate to bring on additional partners and funding sources. In addition, St. Jude will provide technical support, including expertise on global pediatric oncology.
During the pilot phase in year one, we anticipate that approximately 5,000 children will benefit from an increased access to childhood cancer medicines through the platform that offers end-to-end support. The goal is to double this number each subsequent year to reach approximately 50,000 children per year by year 6 of the platform. In total, we expect that approximately 120,000 children will have benefitted from the platform’s operations by the end of 2027.
By the end of the first six years, we estimate that approximately 25% of all children with cancer in the world will benefit from this platform, including close to 70% of those in low- and lower middle- income countries.
The St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Board of Governors approved the development of the platform in October 2021. St. Jude and the World Health Organization are currently defining/refining the processes that will enable the platform to achieve the expected impact of 25% of all children with cancer benefiting worldwide. This includes establishing an Administrative Operational Unit that will manage the platform, engaging a procurement agency, creating a governance structure, and establishing a country selection process. Over the coming months, more information about the operational model will be confirmed and shared with the public.
During development and launch, the platform will be focused on procuring and distributing medicines that have been categorized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “Essential Medicines” and are cancer medicines (or anti-neoplastics). WHO defines Essential Medicines as those that satisfy the priority health care needs of a population. They are selected with due regard to disease prevalence and public health relevance, evidence of efficacy and safety and comparative cost-effectiveness. WHO updates a list of Essential Medicines every two years. The first list of Essential Medicines for children was published in 2007, and the most recent list published in 2021.
The list of medicines will be formally determined during the development phase; however, it is likely to include some or most of those identified by the World Health Organization for treatment of childhood cancer, including:
The need for safe and effective medicines is global. In the Development Phase, the focus will be on low- and middle- income countries (LMICs) and determined by strict criteria for participation.
The implementation of the Global Platform will follow three phases:
An experienced procurement agent with whom St. Jude and the World Health Organization will engage will develop agreements with manufacturers that meet a quality or regulatory threshold. The platform also will have mechanisms to monitor for sub-standard or falsified medicines.
Following the initial development and pilot phases, different levels of engagement will exist in which external stakeholders can get involved. St. Jude and the World Health Organization will share these opportunities when available.