Although they are on the list of drugs provided by the Unified Health System (SUS), the delay of more than a year in the availability of two immunotherapies for the treatment of non-surgical melanoma – an aggressive type of skin cancer – can compromise the cure and shorten the life of three thousand patients with the disease.
Incorporated in the SUS list since November 2020, the drugs Pembrolizumab and Nivolumabe cost, on average, R$ 17,000 and R$ 4,000, respectively, but since approval by the National Commission for the Incorporation of Technologies (Conitec), the Ministry Health has not yet defined how the acquisition of these drugs will be carried out.
The drugs are also effective in the treatment of lung, kidney and gynecological cancer.
The Oncoguia Foundation, which defends the rights of cancer patients, sent a letter to the Ministry of Health asking for an explanation for the delay in releasing the drugs, but received no response.
A CNN also contacted the folder and awaits a placement.
What the Ministry of Health needs to establish is whether purchases of medicines will be made directly by the folder or via authorization for outpatient procedures, the so-called APAC.
In this case, the health unit, with authorization from the Ministry of Health, receives the funds for the purchase of medicines.
The president of the Oncoguia Foundation, Luciana Holtz explains that these drugs are currently the most promising and effective for the treatment of melanoma. According to her, this type of delay is crucial to save the lives of many patients or even stabilize the disease.
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer in which the cells that make up this organ grow out of control. The incidence of this disease has increased in recent decades, and, according to data from the National Cancer Institute, around 6,260 new cases are registered annually in Brazil, with 1,794 deaths.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), each year 132,000 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed in the world. This is considered the most serious type and with the greatest chance of causing metastases, conditions in which the disease spreads to other organs.
The oncologist Rodrigo Munhoz points out that the two immunotherapeutic drugs increase the survival of patients with non-surgical metastatic melanoma by 45%. In addition, they are also effective in fighting other types of cancer such as lung, kidney and gynecological.
“Immunotherapeutics revolutionized the treatment of patients with metastatic melanoma. They stimulate the immune system to recognize and fight cancer. They remove the shields that cancer uses to protect itself from immune attack. Before the development of these two drugs, the chance of a patient with metastatic melanoma being alive, in five years, was 10%”, explains the specialist.
According to data from the INCA Cancer Mortality Atlas, 1,978, 1,159 men and 819 women died from the disease in 2019.
About melanoma, this skin cancer can appear anywhere on the body, on the skin or mucous membranes, in the form of spots, spots or moles.
In black-skinned people, it is more common in fair areas such as the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
The disease can arise from normal skin or a pigmented lesion and manifests after the appearance of a dark spot with irregular edges accompanied by itching and scaling.
Often, the person already has the spots and they undergo transformation (they start to grow, for example).
In cases of a pre-existing pigmented lesion, there is an increase in size, change in color and shape of the lesion, which starts to present irregular edges.
Early detection of cancer, in its early stages, allows for a greater chance of treatment.
Reference: CNN Brasil