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Int'l committee to study cost of cancer treatment in Jordan

By Mohammad Ghazal - Mar 12,2018 - Last updated at Mar 12,2018

AMMAN — An independent international committee will soon launch a study to determine the cost of cancer care in Jordan and come up with recommendations to help ensure sustainable solutions for the treatment of cancer patients in the country, the King Hussein Cancer Centre (KHCC) said on Monday.

The committee, which is expected to complete its study in three months, will consist of international and world-renowned experts in the field, Asem Mansour, CEO and director general of KHCC, told The Jordan Times over the phone.

The formation of the committee follows a recent government decision stipulating that a committee of experts should decide on the referral of certain cancer patients to the KHCC, public hospitals or the Royal Medical Services for treatment, which tightly restricted the Prime Ministry's referrals of cancer patients to the KHCC.

The decision to form the committee, which will be selected by the KHCC and the Health Ministry, was approved by the Cabinet.

"After the government's decision, the number of cancer patients we received dropped almost to zero," Mansour said.

In 2017, around 4,000 cancer patients were referred to the KHCC for treatment, 960 of whom were referred by the Prime Ministry.

"Since the government's decision on January 15th, only three patients were referred to us by the Prime Ministry," Mansour claimed.

The overall number of cancer patients referred to the centre this year is expected to drop to 2,700 — 3,000 if referrals by the Prime Ministry remain at such low levels, he added.

According to Mansour, there are around 5,700 cancer patients in the Kingdom, who receive various levels of cancer treatment from public hospitals, the Royal Medical Services and the KHCC. 

"The government took the decision saying that the reason is the high cost of cancer treatment…This international committee will help identify what the cost of cancer treatment is in Jordan, which is very important as there are currently no clear figures," Mansour noted.

"We hope that this study will also come up with recommendations to ensure sustainable solutions for the treatment of cancer patients so they are not left subject to some governmental decisions," he added.

According to the director general, between 50 to 55 per cent of the cost of cancer treatment at the KHCC is generated by the price of anti-cancer drugs, which are "very expensive drugs".

The international committee will also study the gap in cancer care in Jordan and the quality of cancer care services by the various medical facilities, he added.

"We will end up with a map of cancer care services, cost and quality of services once the committee is done with its work," Mansour said.

Last month, the Health Ministry stressed that patients' referral to the KHCC for treatment "still exists and will continue" in response to previous reports claiming that the ministry halted financial coverage of cancer and other chronic diseases’ treatment to reduce public expenses.

The ministry said that, in cases where cancer treatment is not available at public hospitals, patients can be transferred to other centres including KHCC "regardless of the cost".

The ministry added that, if medications are not available at the hospitals, they will be provided "without hesitation and at any price".

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