In India, more than 1.3 million people develop cancer each year. Cancer is the third highest cause of death amongst non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Although affordability is often cited as the cause of this poor cancer care access, there are many other barriers to treatment. These include late diagnosis, limited and hard to-reach infrastructure, low awareness of treatment options, inadequate biomarker testing, lack of reimbursement of medicines, and poor adherence to treatment. Only one out of four patients who are prescribed medicines actually starts the treatment and only a few of these barriers are being addressed.

India does not have universal access to healthcare or centralised payers, however it does have large central and regional healthcare funding programmes. These programmes typically offer coverages to government employees and their families. A few programmes are also designed for the economically disadvantaged segment of the population. In addition, various NGOs and pharmaceutical companies provide patient assistance programmes.

Hence, it can be confusing for a patient to be able to navigate these multiple challenges and platforms for initiating cancer therapy.

What we’re doing

In 2015, in order to properly tackle the full range of barriers to cancer care, Roche India developed “The Blue Tree” programme. This single platform supports patients and their families with disease awareness and testing, funding solutions, home delivery of medicines, free medicines, treatment adherence support and standardised reports.

The programme is managed by Saarathi Healthcare and supported by Roche. Once patients have joined the programme, the tele-coordinators from Saarathi stay in constant contact with patients by helping them navigate through “The Blue Tree” service offerings like:

  • Liaising with Oncquest and Dr. Lal Pathlabs for diagnostic testing.
  • Providing clear and reliable information on cancer to help them understand and manage their disease and treatment.
  • Guiding patients who are eligible for government reimbursement through completing the documentation.
  • Help patient recall and/or identify additional sources of funding.
  • Aid patients to finance their treatment through a bank loan with ICICI Bank, provided at attractive terms. The loan can be repaid within 6-60 months to the bank.
  • Assist eligible patients unable to continue treatment due to financial reasons obtain medicines at no cost from S K Distributor to support patients completing the final stages of therapy.
  • Address issues of reach and availability and ensure delivery of Roche medicines at a location convenient to the patient through the service of S K Distributor and Medybiz.
  • Saarathi tele-coordinators call the patients once a month to remind them of their infusion dates and also 48 hours prior to their infusion.

Our impact

In 2017, the project supported over 4,000 patients. We partnered with more than 750 doctors and this enabled access to treatment across 300 cancer centres in India. Patients on the programme have shown a 40% increase in therapy adherence rates.

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Last updated April 2018

Tags: Patients, Access to healthcare