Lillian Dube joins picket over price on breast cancer drug
Breast cancer and HIV activists came out in their hundreds on Tuesday to demand that pharmaceutical giant Roche drops the price of breast cancer medicine trastuzumab.
“We are because we want access to a medicine called trastuzumab. Trastuzumab is a life-saving medicine for women with breast cancer and unfortunately‚ in South Africa and many parts of the world‚ it's not available because it’s too expensive‚" said Lotti Rutter‚ campaign manager for the Treatment Action Campaign.
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Trastuzumab‚ which is marketed in South Africa as Herceptin‚ is prescribed to women with a specific form of breast cancer‚ HER2-positive. In the private sector‚ a 12-month course of Herceptin costs approximately R485 800 - or more if higher dosages are required.
“People across the world are today demanding that Roche drop the price of trastuzumab so that all women who need it can get access to it‚” said Rutter.
Picture: Neo Goba
“There's been a lot of engagements between Roche and the South African government in order to get trastuzumab into the public sector."
Veteran actress Lillian Dube‚ who in 2015 revealed that she had to fight a renewed battle with cancer after undergoing a single mastectomy‚ was among those in the picket outside Roche’s Sandton premises on Tuesday.
“This is a worthy course and I'm here to fight for patients’ rights. As a cancer survivor‚ I was on Herceptin and my medical aid got depleted when I wasn't even halfway through my 17 treatments. I was not even halfway‚ which meant that in order for me to finish my treatment‚ every three weeks I had to pay R24 320 for each visit‚" said Dube.
Although she returned to work fairly quickly‚ she has since confirmed that her fight against the disease is not yet over.
Picture: Neo Goba
“My real concern is that you can't find this very medication in public hospitals and‚ as a result‚ young women die because they cannot get access to Herceptin because of the price and that government says it's also expensive.
“Roche has made their money‚ why do they keep charging us exorbitantly?” asked Dube.
She said she had now finished her treatment‚ but still has to pay R1000 per tablet for letrozole‚ which helps suppress the hormone that was helping the cancer to grow.
A memorandum of demands will be submitted to company representatives later on Tuesday.