Cheers as Pharmacy Board approves Janssen’s Prostate Cancer drug

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Janssen Pharmaceutical Country Manager Marseille Onyango, Johnson & Johnson Government Affairs & Policy East Africa Director Idah Asin, Dr. Idir Ouzaid, Urologist at Bichat Claude Bernard Hospital and Janssen Kenya Medical Affairs Manager Dr. Eric Muchangi during Janssen Kenya’s Medical Education Symposium on Prostate Cancer. photo-courtesy

Patients suffering Metastatic prostate cancer have a reason to smile after the Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB) approved the use of a prescription drug manufactured by Janssen, one of the pharmaceutical companies of Johnson & Johnson.

The drug which is meant for the treatment of newly diagnosed metastatic prostate cancer is credit with no previous exposure to cytotoxic chemotherapy.

The local pharmaceuticals regulator has approved the use of Janssen’s once-daily medication ZYTIGA (abiraterone acetate) for the treatment of metastatic hormone sensitive prostate cancer ahead of a chemotherapy regime.

The approval is expected to help boost ongoing efforts to minimise existing barriers to cancer care access.

The prescription only innovator (non generic) oncological management drug is distributed locally by Janssen Kenya as part of the global pharmaceutical firm’s commitment to enhance access of essential drugs.

Speaking, when he confirmed the recent approval, Janssen Kenya Country Manager Mr. Marseille Onyango, said prior to the approval, ZYTIGA had only been licensed for treatment of advanced prostate cancer; commonly referred to in medical jargon as metastatic castrate resistance prostate cancer.  

 Onyango, while addressing medical professionals at a Nairobi hotel confirmed that ZYTIGA had progressively received international recognition as a broad indication treatment drug for prostate cancer.

“Globally, Janssen Pharmaceutical is dedicated to delivering therapeutic options with exceptional services, Onyango said.

Earlier this year, Janssen Kenya had also received the nod from the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) which has listed ZYTIGA as a reimbursable innovator drug as part of a joint commitment by the two firms to enhance access of the crucial drug for local prostate cancer patients.

“The local approval by the Pharmacy and Poisons Board, for what we call in clinical terms; an expanded indication for ZYTIGA, helps fill a critical medical need, providing local physicians with an important tool for treating men with metastatic hormone sensitive prostate cancer. ” said Onyango. Adding that, “Under the Janssen Kenya Prostate cancer access program in conjunction with Axios International, a specialised healthcare access company, ZYTIGA will continue being available for all patients including NHIF members who enjoy significant cost savings.”

On his part, Janssen Kenya Country Medical Affairs Manager Dr Eric Muchangi expressed optimism that the drug will provide much needed relief for prostate cancer patients and their families.

“ZYTIGA works by inhibiting the enzyme complex required for the production of androgens in the testes, adrenals and the prostate tumor tissue. Having ZYTIGA as a new therapeutic option in Kenya, will provide hope for patients with metastatic hormone sensitive prostate cancer and their families as they continue to battle the disease,” Dr Muchangi said.

Earlier this year, NHIF Claims and Benefits Manager, Mrs. Judy Otele, had disclosed that with the Janssen Kenya Prostate cancer access project, NHIF, had successfully managed to significantly negotiate the price reduction of ZYTIGA.  

The Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, is the world´s largest and most broadly based healthcare company. Janssen envisions a world where cancer is a preventable, chronic or curable disease and is focused on developing solutions that prolong and improve patient lives to get there.

Currently, the NHIF care package entails up to 10 chemotherapy sessions, oral and injectable anti-cancers drugs, inpatient and outpatient oncology services, 20 sessions for radio therapy, and up to two sessions for Brachytherapy for advanced cancer, per year. Among the health facilities that offer the package include some level five and six hospitals, and selected private hospitals in urban centres.

 NHIF covers six sessions for the first line treatment for up to Ksh25,000 per session, four sessions for the second and third line treatment for up to Ksh150,000 per session and 20 sessions of radiotherapy at Ksh3,600 per session. Biopsy is covered under the surgical package. Radiology is also done during the diagnosis stage, and this include MRIs, ultrasounds, or CT scan and PET scan, also covered by NHIF.