As the COVID situation in the country is improving, biopharmaceutical leader Takeda Healthcare Philippines Inc. highlights the importance of providing continuous care for patients that are diagnosed with lymphoma.
“Now that restrictions are easing up, we have the opportunity to take initiative and engage in activities that will allow us to extend the much-needed assistance that lymphoma patients need,” said Loreann Villanueva, Country Manager of Takeda Philippines. “The situation may constantly change, but our commitment towards educating Filipinos about this disease and improving patient access to treatment and quality of lymphoma care remains the same.”
Knowing the enemy disease
Lymphoma is the most common type of blood cancer in the world. According to a study by the Global Cancer Observatory (Globocan), over 600,000 new cases of lymphoma were detected worldwide in 2020, making it the 11th most common cancer in the world. In the Philippines, there were over 4,000 new patients that were diagnosed with this disease in 2020.
It begins when an infection-fighting white blood cell (or lymphocyte) mutates, divides and grows out of control, compromising the immune system and lodging itself onto lymph nodes or “kulani” and causing them to swell. Hodgkin lymphoma is a type of lymphoma that involves the presence of a specific type of lymphocyte called Reed-Sternberg cells. Hodgkin lymphoma cases comprise one-fifth of all lymphoma cases in the world, making it a rare cancer.
Like any other cancers, detecting the disease in its early stages is essential, as survival rates drop from 90% to 70% in patients with advanced stages of the disease. Hodgkin lymphoma shares common symptoms with other diseases such as fever, chills, night sweats, unexplained weight loss and fatigue. This, coupled with the fact that it is a relatively rare disease, makes it difficult for people to identify it in its early stages.
Diagnosing lymphoma entails several tests to confirm its type. One of which is through a bone marrow biopsy. Another one is through a series of panel tests called immunohistochemistry (IHC) testing, specifically the one that tests for the CD30 lymphoma marker. However, IHC is not a standard test in the country due to its cost and lack of availability in hospitals.
Plights of a lymphoma patient
Jheric Delos Angeles, lymphoma survivor-advocate and co-founder of Lymphoma Philippines, shared some of the struggles faced by lymphoma patients. These challenges include access to accurate diagnosis and new medicines, financial means, communication gaps with healthcare providers, cultural stigma, and discrimination.
Jheric Delos Angeles, Co-Founder of Lymphoma Philippines, was diagnosed with Stage IV Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (ALCL) in May 2015.
Having battled lymphoma himself, he co-founded Lymphoma Philippines, a patient support group that aims to help patients and their loved ones who are diagnosed with the disease, and to raise awareness about lymphoma.
Apart from these barriers, Delos Angeles added, “Every individual requires a strong support system. In fact, Lymphoma Philippines was created to provide emotional support and empowerment, as well as to bridge the information gap.”
Takeda Philippines stands with all the lymphoma patients and recognizes the struggles they face, and the many dreams and hopes they are yet to fulfill. Hence, Takeda Philippines takes on the mission to create approaches that would help patients overcome the barriers and shares multiple ways on how the company shows continuity of care for lymphoma patients.
Takeda Philippines invests in various programs and solutions to address affordability barriers and to improve treatment access among patients. First, the company is guided by a tier-pricing approach where medicines are priced in a manner that reflects the holistic value they offer to patients, the healthcare system, and society. Secondly, Takeda Philippines has the Patient Assistance Program (PAP). This makes use of innovative and collaborative financing models to increase access to treatment and medicines for the recommended duration. Eligible patients may get in touch with their doctors for information on how to enroll in the program.
“Aside from this, educating ourselves about the nature of the disease – its causes, symptoms, manifestations – is one of the first steps to take, which we can easily do by researching about lymphoma and attending talks facilitated by medical experts,” shared Dr. Joy Pabellon, Medical Affairs Lead at Takeda Philippines.
She added, “Engaging in conversations about lymphoma can also help strengthen the dialogue surrounding it. Through our social circles and platforms, we can create spaces for lymphoma awareness and care campaigns.”
A commitment to lymphoma patients
Takeda Philippines has engaged in several initiatives on lymphoma awareness, such as webinars, talks, and workshops, in partnership with national organizations for cancer. Earlier this year, it launched the “Spot Lymphoma, Stop Lymphoma,” a campaign that aims to raise awareness about lymphoma by providing free testing to patients, partnering with relevant organizations and institutions, and sponsoring talks and seminars to educate the public about the disease.
Representatives from Takeda Philippines and Care PH doing the symbolic gesture of Takeda’s Spot Lymphoma, Stop Lymphoma campaign. (From left to right) Loreann Villanueva, Country Manager, Takeda Philippines; Igor Gomes, Cluster Head and General Manager, VMAPS; Dr. Beatrice Tiangco, Founder of Care PH; and Mr. Jojo Flores, Program and Administrative Officer of Care PH.
Recently, Takeda Philippines provided a Php 1,000,000 grant to Cancer Care Registry and Research Philippines Foundation (CARE PH) to expand cancer research efforts in the country. This initiative is geared towards providing a more comprehensive range of support for Filipino cancer patients. The grant will allow CARE PH to train encoders and lead additional site-specific cancer registries. It will be used in contributing to the research and development of newer diagnostic and therapeutic modalities to diagnose cancers earlier, while also ensuring that the best possible treatments are accessible and available to patients.
Furthermore, Takeda Philippines aims to sustain its efforts to provide patients access to the CD30 lymphoma marker test through a donation to the PHAPCares Foundation. The PHAPCares Foundation is the social responsibility arm of the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP) mandated to help improve the health and lives of Filipinos disadvantaged by sickness, poverty, conflicts and disasters.
This year, the PHAPCares Foundation is partnering with one of the country’s largest tertiary public referral hospitals for the CD30 Testing for Lymphoma Awareness and Prevention Program (CLAP) to facilitate early screening, diagnosis and confirmation of the disease. The CLAP initiative will provide CD30 testing for free to indigent Filipinos who would not have otherwise been tested.
“We are committed to outsmarting cancer so that more patients can benefit from—and have access to—life-transforming medicines. Through our cancer research and development, we are building up on our deep understanding of cancer to develop new ways to approach the disease,” said Villanueva.
She added, “In all our efforts, we seek not only to increase awareness about lymphoma, but also to heed the call of the government to implement the spirit of the National Integrated Cancer Control Act and for the medical, patient and healthcare community, to come together to work towards a cancer-free Philippines.”
To know more about Takeda and its initiatives, visit www.takeda.com.