New Global Coalition Aims to Increase Access to Essential Cancer Medicines

By News Release


The Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) along with numerous industry partners established the Access to Oncology Medicines (ATOM) Coalition, a new global partnership to increase access to quality-assured essential cancer medicines in low- and lower middle-income countries (LLMICs) and to help countries develop the capacity for their proper use.

According to WHO, less than 50% of the cancer medicines on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines (WHO EML) are estimated to be currently available in LLMICs. In 2020, more than 3.5 million new cancer cases were diagnosed in LLMICs and an estimated 2.3 million premature deaths were caused by cancer. If left unchecked, deaths from cancer in low-income and in lower middle-income countries are expected to rise to 4 million by 2040.

Prof Anil D’Cruz, President of UICC and Director of Oncology at Apollo Hospitals in India, explains, “Simply making affordable cancer medicines available does not guarantee that people living with cancer will receive the medicines they need at the right time. This new partnership is set up to ensure that low- and lower-middle income countries get the support they need to receive the essential cancer medicines where they are currently lacking, as well as the training on their use so that their availability becomes sustainable long term and addresses the specific needs of each country with respect to its cancer burden.”

Today, there are many access initiatives in operation that seek to improve the delivery of essential cancer medicines to people who need them in LLMICs. The ATOM Coalition brings these excellent initiatives together to generate synergies, exchange best practices and streamline efforts between in-country and global partners.

The ATOM Coalition will build on UICC’s network of member organizations in selected countries as well as on the range of global and country-level public and private sector partners with expertise in implementing cancer-focused access programs. This will amplify the effectiveness of ATOM Coalition partners and enable countries to increase access to diagnostics and essential cancer medicines.

The ATOM Coalition partners seek to build a sustainable operating model that facilitates access over time, as breakthroughs occur, to new medicines that can have a significant health impact in LLMICs, whilst ensuring that today’s effective medicines are more widely available across those countries in a sustainable manner.

In particular, ATOM Coalition partners will:

  • Work with governments in LLMICs to assess their country’s ability to receive and use cancer medicines, agreeing and then addressing the gaps they have in making more medicines available to cancer patients;
  • Support governments in LLMICs to develop sustainable health financing, which covers adequate staffing and medicines for cancer treatment;
  • Support the development of sustainable diagnostic and pathology capacity;
  • Implement training and education programs for health care workers and supportive care staff on evidence-based treatment guidelines, protocols and management of adverse reactions; provide support in streamlining regulatory processes, procurement, forecasting and supply chain management;
  • Support generic and biosimilar manufacturers to develop, register and supply quality-assured essential cancer medicines at affordable prices in ATOM focus countries;
  • Provide the necessary means to make available new medicines of significant public health importance for LLMICs through voluntary licensing and other channels.

The ATOM Coalition will be structured as an informal alliance comprised of all ATOM partners and key representatives from target countries and led by a governing council. UICC will serve as Secretariat of the ATOM Coalition and coordinate ATOM partners in their shared ambition to work collectively in target ATOM countries. The ATOM Coalition will also include regional and national organizations within its governance structure, ensuring that it properly represents the needs of cancer patients in LLMICs.

In the first phase of operations, the ATOM Coalition will support the implementation of intensive coordinated capacity building activities in up to 10 countries, expanding to other LLMICs over time, and will focus on increasing access to medicines in over half of countries currently classified as LLMICs.