Affordability of Cancer Treatment

As per GLOBOCAN statistics, a total number of 13,24,413 new cancer cases were reported in India in 2020 and the number of prevalent cases (5-year period) was 27,20,251. As per a WHO study, 1 in every 10 Indians will develop cancer and 1 in every 15 will die of the deadly disease. Owing to its chronic nature and expensive treatment, out-of-pocket expenditure is the highest for cancer (Government of India, NSSO, 2020). The treatment cost often results in financial catastrophe and pushes the household in a deeper financial debt (WHO, 2010).

Following Honourable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’s vision of providing affordable, equitable, and quality healthcare to every citizen of this country, the Foundation is working aggressively with Rajya Sabha Parliamentary Committee for the reduction of the GST applicable on cancer medicines from 12% to 5%. With the effort of the Foundation, till date, 9 Member of Parliaments has written to the Honourable Finance Minister and the GST Council of India for reduction of GST rates. On September 17, 2021, the Finance Minister announced for the waiver of GST on cancer drugs. This was the one of the biggest milestones for Progressive Foundation. The overall reduction in GST has manifold benefits- 

1. Increased Access to Healthcare: Affordability is directly linked to access of healthcare. According to GLOBOCAN statistics, 13,24,413 new cancer cases were recorded in India in 2020, with 27,20,251 prevalent cases over a five-year period. Per a WHO research, one out of every ten Indians will acquire cancer, and one out of every fifteen will succumb to the deadly disease. Cancer has the greatest out-of-pocket costs due to its chronic nature and costly treatment. The therapy costs frequently force families deeper into debt and most of the times end in financial disaster. Ensuring the accessibility of medication for these families is an essential part of their Right to Health. Reducing the GST applicable on cancer medicines from 12% to 5% will ensure accessibility in three ways; first, it will ensure these medications are more affordable; second, it will ensure these medicines are more accessible for economically vulnerable sections of society; third, it will improve accessibility in isolated regions. 

2. Support to patients for other household expenditure: An effective reduction in the GST rate from 12% to 5% for cancer drugs would translate into increased affordability of medicines and substantial consumer savings that can then be utilised elsewhere. This will certainly impact the out-of-pocket expenditure of households, a major policy objective of the Government

3. Support to Government’s Health Schemes: Government is a large consumer segment of medicines. Annual government expenditure on all medicines is estimated at INR 26,128 Cr. for year 2019-2020. Lowering of GST would have direct impact on reducing this total expenditure. In addition, flagship Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojna (PM-JAY) would also benefit indirectly as lowered cost would lead to reduction in Government payment for health insurance coverage. This saving will enable Government to spend more towards health sector including creation of new health infrastructure.