–Launch event – 21 March 2017–
On 21st of March, the All.Can initiative was officially launched in Poland during the first panel of the 6th Oncology Patient Forum organized by the Polish Coalition of Cancer Patients (PKPO). The event gathered around 200 participants, including the leading cancer patient groups, experts and decision makers. After the panel, a press conference was organized in which 21 journalists from different newspapers and radio took part. The event was also attended by Polish MEP Boleslaw Piecha, who strongly supported the initiative and actively participated in both the panel and press conference. On the same day, website of the Polish All.Can initiative was launched.
During the session “All.Can – challenges in cancer care”, the leading members of the Polish All.Can multi-stakeholder group presented the Polish report, petition (which was submitted to decision makers on 28 February) and recommendations.
Szymon Chrostowski, the Chair of the Polish Cancer Patient Coalition and a Board Member of the European Cancer Patient Coalition (ECPC) opened the panel by reminding that the main idea behind the report is the need for better resource allocation for cancer care. He then presented data on the state of the Polish cancer care compared with other European countries.
Prof. Jacek Jassem, Head of the Department of Oncology and Radiotherapy, Medical University of Gdansk and Member of the Board of ESMO, talked about the need for a more efficient allocation of available resources to cancer care and gave concrete examples of inefficient management of resources. In his view, better allocation is related to the idea of coordinated cancer care and the need for quality control, which should be the basis for the assessment of cancer care departments. Mr. Jassem said that experts and patient organizations have been calling for years to move from the currently dominant hospital cancer treatment model to a much cheaper outpatient medical care. At the same time, it is absolutely crucial that the money saved in cancer care be reinvested in cancer care, unfortunately, it’s not always the case in Poland, he said.
Prof. Jacek Fijuth, President of the Polish Oncology Society, talked about the necessity to increase the role of primary prevention and screening. In his view, the recommendations of the European Code Against Cancer should be widely promoted in Poland in order to raise awareness about the cancer risk factors as well as the about the behaviours that may reduce these risk, such as not smoking. As regards the screening, Poland has so far implemented screening programs for breast, cervical and colorectal cancer, as recommended by the Council of the European Union, but the level of population coverage is still small. According to Mr Fijuth, it is necessary to restore invitations to screening for breast cancer and cervical cancer which were suspended due to a non-compliance with the provisions on the protection of personal data. Lastly, according to Mr. Fijuth, GPs are extremely important partners in the primary and secondary prevention of cancer and their cooperation with cancer care professionals should be strengthened.
Małgorzata Gałązka-Sobotka, health economist from the Lazarski University, emphasized the importance of wider and faster access to innovative medical technologies, explaining that they are a source of cost optimization, as they allow for a shorter hospitalization time and have a beneficial clinical effect. She also welcomed the new plans of the Ministry of Health to introduce compassionate use and emergency fund. Mrs. Gałązka-Sobotka said also that process of medical technology assessment could shortened by relying on the clinical analysis of the European Medicines Agency (EMA). We also need registries that would monitor the effectiveness of therapies in order to prioritize interventions that offer greater benefits to patients.
Prof. Piotr Rutkowski from the Institute of Oncology in Warsaw discussed importance of improving patients’ access to clinical trials. He explained that Poland has potential to be a leader in clinical trials, but according to the data there has been a 15% drop in the number of clinical trials over the past four years in the country. He said that the access will be enhanced by an “Interactive Clinical Research Database” which is being developed by the Polish Society of Clinical Oncology.
Szymon Chrostowski said it is crucial to involve patient representatives in the decision-making process, so that legislation and practice can reflect the real needs of patients. To consciously represent patients, the representatives must be present in the decision-making bodies and have adequate knowledge and education of clinical trials, new drug registration and reimbursement procedures, and pharmacoeconomic analysis.
The political perspective was presented by MEP Boleslaw Piecha. In his opinion, improving the efficiency and sustainability of cancer care in Poland requires long-term vision and enforcement. The MEP said that there are many stereotypes and inaccuracies still present in many cancer care-related areas, including the clinical trial, which, in his opinion, are the “fuel of progress”. The MEP acknowledged that it is important, though difficult, for policy makers to take into account patients’ perspective when planning, implementing and evaluating cancer care. Lastly, Mr. Piecha emphasized that improving the efficiency and sustainability of cancer care is not possible without adequate funding, as money spent on effective and modern treatment brings real savings if indirect costs are considered.