Johnson & Johnson scores in Kenya’s fight against prostate cancer


Kenya’s Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB) has approved the use of a prescription drug manufactured by Janssen, one of the pharmaceutical companies of Johnson & Johnson, for the treatment of prostate cancer.

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

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

READ ALSO:Kenya: Prostate cancer patients to get cheaper drugs

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 Marseille Onyango said prior to the approval, ZYTIGA had only been licensed for treatment of advanced prostate cancer cases post chemotherapy.

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.

READ ALSO:World Cancer Day: A look at the rising cost of cancer in Africa

“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 castration-resistant prostate cancer who have not received chemotherapy,” said Onyango.

“Under the Janssen Kenya Prostate cancer 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,” he added.

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.

READ ALSO:Kenya pharmaceutical companies pledge to reduce cost of drugs

“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, before chemotherapy will provide hope for patients with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer and their families as they continue to battle the disease,” Dr Muchangi said.

Earlier this year, NHIF Claims and Benefits Manager, Judy Otele, had disclosed that with the Janssen Kenya Prostate cancer project, NHIF, had successfully managed to negotiate the price reduction of ZYTIGA from Ksh200,000(US$1,936) to about Ksh100,000(US$968).

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.

To ensure a coordinated response to cancer control in Kenya, the National Cancer Control Strategy (NCCS) 2017-2022 was developed to act as a framework to guide all stakeholders supporting cancer control in Kenya.

The strategy addresses the whole cancer ecosystem from prevention to survivorship and has five (5) pillars namely: Prevention, Early Detection and Screening, Diagnosis, Registration and Surveillance, Treatment, Palliative Care and Survivorship, Coordination, Partnership and Financing and Monitoring, Evaluation and Research.

Cancer is one of the major non-communicable diseases in Kenya and ranks third as a cause of death after infectious diseases and cardiovascular diseases.

It is estimated that there are 40,000 new cases annually and approximately 28,000 cancer related deaths every year. More than 70 per cent of cancer cases are diagnosed at late stage when treatment outcomes are poor and palliative care is usually the only management amenable.

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(US$242) per session, four sessions for the second and third line treatment for up to Ksh150,000(US$1,453) per session and 20 sessions of radiotherapy at Ksh3,600(US$34.88) per session.

Biopsy is covered under the surgical package. Radiology is also done during the diagnosis stage, and this includes MRIs, ultrasounds, or CT scan and PET scan, also covered by NHIF.

Since its first approval in the U.S. in 2011, ZYTIGA® has been approved in combination with prednisone or prednisolone, in 105 countries. More than 330,000 patients worldwide have received treatment with it, and it is quickly becoming one of the cornerstones of treatments. ZYTIGA® (abiraterone acetate) in combination with prednisone is indicated for the treatment of patients:  with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) and those with metastatic high-risk castration-sensitive prostate cancer (CSPC).

READ:Kenyan Hospital seeks the hand of Americans to manage cancer



Martin Mwita is a business reporter based in Kenya. He covers equities, capital markets, trade and the East African Cooperation markets.

Comments are closed.