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WHO and St. Jude Work Together to Expand Access to Childhood Cancer Medicines

Every year about 400,000 children around the world are diagnosed with cancer. Most live in low- and-middle income countries. Sadly, the odds are stacked against them. The life-saving medicines they need may not be available where they live.

Right now, less than 30% of children in low- and-middle income countries will survive their cancer. But in high-income countries such as the United States, about 80% will survive. Lack of access to medicines causes an estimated 100,000 avoidable deaths in children every year.

A Platform to Save Lives

The World Health Organization (WHO) and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital want to change that.

They announced a new program today. It's called the Global Platform for Access to Childhood Cancer Medicines. The program will supply low- and-middle income countries with cancer medicines.

“St. Jude was founded on the desire to take on childhood cancer and other catastrophic pediatric diseases. Nearly 60 years later, we stand together with the World Health Organization, partner organizations and our Global Alliance ready to expand that promise for children worldwide," said James R. Downing, M.D., president and CEO of St. Jude. “With this platform, we are building the infrastructure to ensure that children everywhere have access to safe cancer medicines.”

How the Platform Works

During the first two years of the platform, an agency will buy childhood cancer medicines. They will distribute the medicines to 12 countries.
The agency will work with:

  • Governments
  • Cancer centers
  • Nongovernmental organizations

The platform will forecast needs of each country. It will manage distribution, too.
By the end of 2027, the platform will provide up to 120,000 children in as many as 50 countries with cancer medicines.

“Unless we address the shortage and poor quality of cancer medicines in many parts of the world, there are very few options to cure these children,” said Carlos Rodriguez-Galindo, M.D., executive vice president and chair of the St. Jude Department of Global Pediatric Medicine and director of St. Jude Global. “Healthcare providers must have access to a reliable source of cancer medicines that constitutes the current standard of care. We at St. Jude, with our co-founding partners at WHO and many vital partners around the world, can help achieve that.”

Investing in Children's Health 

St. Jude is investing $200 million over six years to launch the platform. It will provide medicines at no cost to countries with limited resources. The platform will scale up with support from others as it grows.

St. Jude is making the largest known investment in access to medicines for cancer in these countries. It more than doubles current contributions of non-governmental agencies to these illnesses.
The Global Platform for Access to Childhood Cancer Medicines is part of the Six-Year St. Jude Strategic Plan.

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