Agha Khan University Hospital (AKUH) put together a partnership with Pakistani group Patients Behbud Society for AKUH (PBS) and Eli Lilly Pakistan to offer underserved patients targeted therapy treatments. Under the terms of this tripartite arrangement, Lilly will cover 60% of the cost of Lilly’s medicine for gastric, lung and colorectal cancer of all eligible patients from AKUH.
Some Things to Consider
The world’s fifth most populous nation (212 million), Pakistan experiences a great cancer morbidity with severe access issues. Its economy has a long way to go ranking 25th worldwide while it sits in highly strategic geopolitical location. With ties to the U.S. via the Cold War, it is a nuclear nation that ensured it has access to considerable scientific capability—it is a nuclear power. A “Middle Power” it has the sixth largest military in the world. A growing economy in an ever-more integrated world (despite some trends toward nationalism) have led Pakistani poverty rates to dramatically decline from above 60% to its current estimated 17.2% although there have been steps backwards due to at times poor federal policy and what many consider to be “rampant corruption.” Although the majority ethnic group is “Indo-Iranic,” it is also represented a diverse array of other ethnic groups making for a dynamic, ethnically diverse and young population.
A good proportion of the population still resides in poor rural areas with a paucity of healthcare services. The disparities in healthcare infrastructure both discourages and hinders most people from seeking medical attention—they live at the mercy of the disease according to on report. The International Agency for Research on Cancer reports over 100,000 people are diagnosed with various types of cancer in Pakistan every year—the most common including breast, lung, and colorectal cancer.
Positive Progress with Promise
Kudos to Eli Lilly for supporting this partnership. The deal will, as mentioned in the Pakistani news outlet The Nation, offer patients “a ray of hope for treatment” and should contribute to an improvement in quality of life for those that directly participate. Eli Lilly’s General Manager for Pakistan, Ammad Siddiqui noted that “Lilly has a presence in Pakistan that goes back over half a century, and we remain committed to bringing our innovations for patients in Pakistan.”
Pushing the Boundaries
As GM Siddiqui continued, “Lilly has always pushed the boundaries of science to make conditions that are incurable today, treatable tomorrow, with a focus on 5 therapeutic areas, including 1) diabetes 2) cancer 3) immunology 4) pain and 5) neuro degeneration.” He emphasized the company’s commitment to open up more access to their medicines. Last year alone Lilly spent nearly $20 million on welfare programs in that country. Although given the magnitude of the challenges in Pakistan the amount is not nearly enough if many companies came in and contributed and collaborated even more the results could be very positive.
Multi-national companies must be at the leadership table to help solve problems worldwide. Pakistan is an important place in the most populated region in the world. It shares a border with China (the most populated nation) and India (the second most populated nation). An economically growing, more prosperous and healthier Pakistan could lead to economic booms in that region and by natural ripple effect the rest of the world. Its young, dynamic population, healthier, will become more productive. If other reforms can evolve there a promising future could be a potential reality. The healthcare sector—including clinical research—can be a key driver for positive change and growth in a place such as Pakistan. Hence Lilly’s efforts are applauded.
About Agha Khan Hospital
Established in 1985 in Karachi, the primary teaching site of the Agha Khan University Faculty of Health Sciences, it offers a range of secondary and tertiary care, including diagnosis of disease, team management of health care, etc. Agha Khan is Pakistan’s largest private medical institute and hospital. It is Joint Commission accredited.
Agha Khan’s Clinical Trials Unit acknowledges the challenges the region faces and underlines the need for innovative and effective diagnostic, preventative and curative regimens specifically designed for local populations. Pakistan is home to an ever-increasing number of clinical trials and Agha Khan is well positioned to capitalize on this trend. According to their website they have commenced 44 multidisciplinary clinical trials and they expect that number again in the coming years. The Agha Khan University Clinical Trials Unit was established in 2011 to cater to the changing needs and global trends. It is a state-of-the-art facility offering a full spectrum of core and supporting administrative services to local researcher investigators as well as global organizations.
We have seen places like Korea where a methodical, well-run, and organized joint public and private partnership can help accelerate not only advanced health care options but also stimulate significant economic activity. We suspect there are fundamental challenges in Pakistan not faced by South Korea however we do believe the global biopharmaceutical industry has an incredible contribution to make to that region of the world.