Our medicines and methods of diagnosing illnesses help people live longer, better lives. We want as many people as possible to have access to treatment. We are accelerating our ongoing efforts in this area with our goal to double the number of patients receiving our innovative therapies in low- and lower-middle income countries by the end of 2026. In India, for example, The Blue Tree programme has helped over 7,000 low-income patients access Roche cancer treatments since 2015.
In India, two people die every minute from cancer. For many, it’s extremely hard to get treatment and then to complete it. There are three main challenges:
Demands on India’s already strained healthcare system are rising. There’s one doctor for every 2,000 people, double the number of patients per doctor compared with the United States. Many patients are diagnosed late due to limited access to primary care physicians and treatment infrastructure, and inadequate biomarker testing (where doctors look for substances that can indicate cancer).
India does not have universal access to healthcare. Instead, it has large central and regional healthcare funding programmes that typically offer coverages to government employees and their families, rather than poorer patients. Most Indians (80%) must pay their medical bills and this can be a big hurdle.
Once a treatment starts it’s vital for patients to see it through. But with many on day wages, coming to hospital can mean loss of income. Medicine availability can be a challenge in remote areas.
To increase access to our treatments, Roche works with all partners in India’s healthcare system, including regulatory bodies, policy makers and healthcare professionals. Our Blue Tree programme supports cancer patients from diagnosis to completion of their treatment.
We launched Blue Tree in 2015 with local partners. Patients hear about the programme through their healthcare provider and can call a toll-free number to learn more and enrol. Tech Madhindra manages the day-to-day programme through a dedicated team of coordinators, while Roche provides oversight and monitors delivery.
The Blue Tree is open to everyone, irrespective of ability to pay. It tackles the three main challenges to treatment:
The Blue Tree helps doctors and patients make informed decisions on the best treatment. For patients, programme coordinators provide clear, reliable information in nine languages on five different types of cancers (breast, lung, colorectal, ovarian and cervical). For doctors, free biomarker tests are provided for patients who cannot afford or access quality testing facilities.
The Blue Tree helps eligible patients find funding from a range of sources, including government, local health authorities, charities and preferential loans.
The Blue Tree helps ensure patients are correctly treated. Programme coordinators remind patients once a month and then two days prior to an infusion, with a follow-up call post-infusion to confirm treatment is complete. The programme updates prescribers’ records for enrolled patients to ensure proper monitoring of treatment. It also connects patients with Roche’s medicine access initiative which makes available all our key products – including cancer treatments. In remote locations, where access to treatment can be a challenge, we arrange delivery of the medicine to the patient’s home.
At the end of 2020, over 7,000 patients were supported by The Blue Tree in over 500 hospitals and treatment centres. These patients have shown a 40% increase in therapy adherence rates. The programme continues, and we aim to add more services, such as home infusion to make it easier to get treatment. We’ll continue working to increase access to our medicines in other lower-middle income countries, to help more people live longer, better lives.