Cancer Medicines: What Is Essential and Affordable in India?

PURPOSE The WHO essential medicines list (EML) guides selection of drugs for national formularies. Here, we evaluate which medicines are considered highest priority by Indian oncologists and the extent to which they are
available in routine practice. METHODS This is a secondary analysis of an electronic survey developed by the WHO EML Cancer Medicine Working Group. The survey was distributed globally using a hierarchical snowball method to physicians who prescribe systemic anticancer therapy. The survey captured the 10 medicines oncologists considered highest priority for population health and their availability in routine practice.
RESULTS The global study cohort included 948 respondents from 82 countries; 98 were from India and 67 were from other low- and middle-income countries. Compared with other low- and middle-income countries, the Indian cohort was more likely to be medical oncologist (70% v 31%, P , .001) and work exclusively in the private health system (52% v 17%, P , .001). 14/20 most commonly selected medicines were conventional
cytotoxic drugs. Universal access to these medicines was reported by a minority of oncologists; risks of significant out-of-pocket expenditures for each medicine were reported by 19%-58% of oncologists. Risk of catastrophic expenditure was reported by 58%-67% of oncologists for rituximab and trastuzumab. Risks of financial toxicity were substantially higher within the private health system compared with the public system.
CONCLUSION Most high-priority cancer medicines identified by Indian oncologists are generic chemotherapy agents that provide substantial improvements in survival and are already included in WHO EML. Access to these
treatments remains limited by major financial burdens experienced by patients. This is particularly acute within the private health system. Strategies are urgently needed to ensure that high-quality cancer care is affordable and accessible to all patients in India

Community-based adult hearing care provided by community healthcare workers using mHealth technologies

The rising prevalence of hearing loss is a global health concern. Professional hearing services are largely absent within low- and middle-income countries where appropriate skills are lacking. Task-shifting to community healthcare workers (CHWs) supported by mHealth technologies is an important strategy to address the problem.

To evaluate the feasibility of a community-based rehabilitation model providing hearing aids to adults in low-income communities using CHWs supported by mHealth technologies.

Between September 2020 and October 2021, hearing aid assessments and fittings were implemented for adults aged 18 and above in two low-income communities in the Western Cape, South Africa, using trained CHWs. A quantitative approach with illustrative open-ended questions was utilised to measure and analyse hearing aid outcomes. Data were collected through initial face-to-face interviews, telephone interviews, and face-to-face visits post-fitting. Responses to open-ended questions were analysed using inductive thematic analysis. The International Outcome Inventory – Hearing Aids questionnaire determined standardised hearing aid outcomes.

Of the 152 adults in the community who self-reported hearing difficulties, 148 were successfully tested by CHWs during home visits. Most had normal hearing (39.9%), 24.3% had bilateral sensorineural hearing loss, 20.9% had suspected conductive hearing loss, and 14.9% had unilateral hearing loss, of which 5.4% had suspected conductive loss. Forty adults met the inclusion criteria to be fitted with hearing aids. Nineteen of these were fitted bilaterally. Positive hearing aid outcomes and minimal device handling challenges were reported 45 days post-fitting and were maintained at six months. The majority (73.7%) of participants fitted were still making use of their hearing aids at the six-month follow-up.

Implementing a hearing healthcare service-delivery model facilitated by CHWs in low-income communities is feasible. mHealth technologies used by CHWs can support scalable service-delivery models with the potential for improved access and affordability in low-income settings.

Impacts of COVID-19 on contraceptive and abortion services in low- and middle-income countries: a scoping review

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionate effects on people living in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), exacerbating weak health systems. We conducted a scoping review to identify, map, and synthesise studies in LMICs that measured the impact of COVID-19 on demand for, provision of, and access to contraceptive and abortion-related services, and reproductive outcomes of these impacts. Using a pre-established protocol, we searched bibliographic databases (December 2019–February 2021) and key grey literature sources (December 2019–April 2021). Of 71 studies included, the majority (61%) were not peer-reviewed, and 42% were based in Africa, 35% in Asia, 17% were multi-region, and 6% were in Latin America and the Caribbean. Most studies were based on data through June 2020. The magnitude of contraceptive service-related impacts varied widely across 55 studies (24 of which also included information on abortion). Nearly all studies assessing changes over time to contraceptive service provision noted declines of varying magnitude, but severe disruptions were relatively uncommon or of limited duration. Twenty-six studies addressed the impacts of COVID-19 on abortion and postabortion care (PAC). Overall, studies found increases in demand, reductions in provision and increases in barriers to accessing these services. The use of abortion services declined, but the use of PAC was more mixed with some studies finding increases compared to pre-COVID-19 levels. The impacts of COVID-19 varied substantially, including the country context, health service, and population studied. Continued monitoring is needed to assess impacts on these key health services, as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves.

Global economic burden of unmet surgical need for appendicitis

There is a substantial gap in provision of adequate surgical care in many low- and middle-income countries. This study aimed to identify the economic burden of unmet surgical need for the common condition of appendicitis.

Data on the incidence of appendicitis from 170 countries and two different approaches were used to estimate numbers of patients who do not receive surgery: as a fixed proportion of the total unmet surgical need per country (approach 1); and based on country income status (approach 2). Indirect costs with current levels of access and local quality, and those if quality were at the standards of high-income countries, were estimated. A human capital approach was applied, focusing on the economic burden resulting from premature death and absenteeism.

Excess mortality was 4185 per 100 000 cases of appendicitis using approach 1 and 3448 per 100 000 using approach 2. The economic burden of continuing current levels of access and local quality was US $92 492 million using approach 1 and $73 141 million using approach 2. The economic burden of not providing surgical care to the standards of high-income countries was $95 004 million using approach 1 and $75 666 million using approach 2. The largest share of these costs resulted from premature death (97.7 per cent) and lack of access (97.0 per cent) in contrast to lack of quality.

For a comparatively non-complex emergency condition such as appendicitis, increasing access to care should be prioritized. Although improving quality of care should not be neglected, increasing provision of care at current standards could reduce societal costs substantially.

A cohort study of differences in trauma outcomes between females and males at four Indian Urban Trauma Centers

Background Studies from high income countries suggest improved survival for females as compared to males following trauma. However, data regarding differences in trauma outcomes between females and males is severely lacking from low- and middle-income countries. The objective of this study was to determine the association between sex and clinical outcomes amongst Indian trauma patients using the Australia-India Trauma Systems Collaboration database.
Methods A prospective multicentre cohort study was performed across four urban public hospitals in India April 2016 through February 2018. Bivariate analyses compared admission physiological parameters and mechanism of injury. Logistic regression assessed association of sex with the primary outcomes of 30-day and 24-hour in-hospital mortality. Secondary outcomes included ICU admission, ICU length of stay, ventilator requirement, and time on a ventilator.
Results Of 8,605 patients, 1,574 (18.3%) were females. The most common mechanism of injury was falls for females (52.0%) and road traffic injury for males (49.5%). On unadjusted analysis, there was no difference in 30-day in-hospital mortality between females (11.6%) and males (12.6%, p = 0.323). However, females demonstrated a lower mortality at 24-hours (1.1% vs males 2.1%, p = 0.011) on unadjusted analysis. Females were also less likely to require a ventilator (17.3% vs 21.0% males, p = 0.001) or ICU admission (34.4% vs 37.5%, p = 0.028). Stratification by age or by ISS demonstrated no difference in 30-day in-hospital mortality for males vs females across age and ISS categories. On multivariable regression analysis, sex was not associated significantly with 30-day or 24-hour in-hospital mortality.
Conclusion This study did not demonstrate a significant difference in the 30-day trauma mortality or 24-hour trauma mortality between female and male trauma patients in India on adjusted analyses. A more granular data is needed to understand the interplay of injury severity, immediate post-traumatic hormonal and immunological alterations, and the impact of gender-based disparities in acute care settings.

Exploring the lived experiences of parents caring for infants with gastroschisis in Rwanda: The untold story

Pediatric surgery is a crucial pillar of health equity but is often not prioritized in the global health agenda, especially in low-and middle-income countries. Gastroschisis (GS) is a type of structural congenital anomaly that can be treated through surgical interventions. In Rwanda, neonatal surgical care is only available in one hospital. The experience of parents of children born with gastroschisis has not been previously studied in Rwanda. The objective of this study was to explore the lived experiences of parents of children diagnosed with GS in Rwanda. A qualitative study using a semi-structured interview guide was conducted. Parents who had children with gastroschisis and were discharged alive from the hospital in Rwanda were interviewed by trained data collectors, from May to July 2021. Data were transcribed, translated, and then coded using a structured code-book. Thematic analysis was conducted with the use of Dedoose software. Sixteen parents participated in the study. Five themes emerged from the data. They were: “GS diagnosis had a significant emotional impact on the parents”, “Parents were content with the life-saving medical care provided for their children despite some dissatisfaction due to the delayed initiation of care and shortage of medications”, “GS care was accompanied by financial challenges”, “support systems were important coping mechanisms” and “the impact of GS care extended into the post-discharge period”. Having a newborn with GS was an emotional journey. The lack of pre-knowledge about the condition created a shock to the parents. Parents found support from their faith and other parents with similar experiences. The experiences with the care received were mostly positive. The overall financial burden incurred from the medical treatment and indirect costs was high and extended beyond the hospital stay. Strengthening prenatal and hospital services, providing peer, spiritual and financial support could enhance the parents’ experience.

Neurosurgical Decision-Making and the Ethical Considerations in the Treatment of Traumatic Brain Injury

Purpose: Globally, disparities in the availability of surgical care are prevalent, and for specialty care such as neurosurgery, services are typically scarce to non-existent. In low-and-middle-income countries, most medical centers have limited resources and are not equipped to handle neurosurgical emergencies. Within the field of global neurosurgery, there has been a push to incorporate advanced technologies such as predictive modeling to facilitate triage and neurosurgical care decision-making.
However, to successfully implement such technologies, it is vital to consider the ethical framework within which neurosurgical care decisions are made and how ethical challenges inform decision-making. The objective of this study was to determine whether the potential ethical challenges that neurosurgical care providers encounter are differentially important to decision-making.
Methods: This study utilized a rank-order survey to evaluate surgical risk tolerance, the relative importance of several patient-level and system-level factors to the decision to offer surgery, and perceptions of the fairness of several resource-allocation principles when surgery cannot be offered to all patients in need. Further, we assessed whether geographic, demographic, cultural, and institutional characteristics and utilitarian ethical orientation differentially impact these aspects of decision-making
Results: The key findings of this study show there is a differential impact of ethical challenges on decision-making and there are correlations with decision-making factors and demographic information.
Conclusion: This data will allow the identification of key commonalities and differences in approaches to neurosurgical decision-making across practice settings, which will potentially facilitate ethically responsible, cross-cultural collaborations and implementations of neurosurgical decision support tools.

Challenges and opportunities for breast cancer early detection among rural dwelling women in Segamat District, Malaysia: A qualitative study

Breast cancer patients in low- and middle-income countries often present at an advanced stage. This qualitative study elicited views regarding the challenges and opportunities for breast cancer screening and early detection among women in a low-income semi-rural community in Segamat district, Malaysia.

Individual semi-structured interviews with 22 people (health professionals, cancer survivors, community volunteers and member from a non-governmental organization) and four focus group discussions (n = 22 participants) with women from a local community were conducted. All participants were purposively sampled and female residents registered with the South East Asia Community Observatory aged ≥40 years were eligible to participate in the focus group discussions. Data were transcribed verbatim and analyzed using thematic analysis.

The thematic analysis illuminated barriers, challenges and opportunities across six domains: (i) personal experiences and barriers to help-seeking as well as financial and travel access barriers; (ii) primary care challenges (related to delivering clinical breast examination and teaching breast-self-examination); (iii) secondary care challenges (related to mammogram services); (iv) disconnection between secondary and primary care breast cancer screening pathways; and (v) opportunities to improve breast cancer early detection relating to community civil service society activities (i.e. awareness raising, support groups, addressing stigma/embarrassment and encouraging husbands to support women) and vi) links between public healthcare personnel and community (i.e. improving breast self-examination education, clinical breast examination provision and subsidised mammograms).

The results point to a variety of reasons for low uptake and, therefore, to the complex nature of improving breast cancer screening and early detection. There is a need to adopt a systems approach to address this complexity and to take account of the socio-cultural context of communities in order, in turn, to strengthen cancer control policy and practices in Malaysia.

Exploring health care providers’ experiences of and perceptions towards the use of misoprostol for management of second trimester incomplete abortion in Central Uganda

Women living in low- and middle-income countries still have limited access to quality second trimester post abortion care. We aim to explore health care providers’ experiences of and perceptions towards the use of misoprostol for management of second trimester incomplete abortion.

This qualitative study used the phenomenology approach. We conducted 48 in-depth interviews for doctors and midwives at 14 public health facilities in central Uganda using a flexible interview guide. We used inductive content analysis and made code frequencies based on health care provider cadre, and health facility level and then abstracted themes from categories.

Well trained midwives were perceived as competent to manage second trimester post abortion care stable patients, however doctor’s supervision in case of complications was considered important. Sometimes, midwives were seen as offering better care than doctors given their stronger presence in the facilities. Misoprostol received unanimous support and viewed as: safe, effective, cheap, convenient, readily available, maintained patient privacy, and saved resources. Challenges faced included: side effects, prolonged hospital stay, treatment failure, inclination to surgical evacuation, heavy work load, inadequate space, lack of medical commodities, frequent staff rotations which affects the quality of patient care. To address these challenges, respondents coped by: giving patients psychological support, analgesics, close patient monitoring, staff mentorship, commitment to work, team work and patient involvement in care.

Misoprostol is perceived as an ideal uterine evacuation method for second trimester post abortion care of uncomplicated patients and trained midwives are considered competent managing these patients in a health facility setting with a back-up of a doctor. Health care providers require institutional and policy environment support for improved service delivery.

The impact of the Fundamental Critical Course on knowledge acquisition in Rwanda

Background. Emerging critical care systems have gained little attention in low- and middle-income countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, only 4% of the healthcare workforce is trained in critical care, and mortality rates are unacceptably high in this patient population.
Aim. We sought to retrospectively describe the knowledge acquisition and confidence improvement of practitioners who attend the Fundamental Critical Care Support (FCCS) course in Rwanda.
Methods. We conducted a retrospective study in which we assessed survey data and multiple-choice question data that were collected before and after course delivery. The purpose of these assessments at the time of delivery was to evaluate participants’ perception and acquisition of critical care knowledge.
Results. Thirty-six interprofessional clinicians completed the training. Performance on the multiple-choice questions improved overall after the course (mean score pre-course of 56.5% to mean score post-course of 65.8%,p-value <0.001) and improved in all content areas with the exception of diagnosis and management of acute coronary syndrome and acute respiratory failure/mechanical ventilation. Both physicians and nurses improved their scores significantly (68.9% to 75.6%,p-value = 0.031 and 52.0% to 63.5%,p-value <0.001, respectively). Self-reported
confidence in level of knowledge also increased in all areas. Survey respondents indicated on open-answer questions that they would like the course offerings at least annually, and that further dissemination of the course in Rwanda was warranted.
Conclusion. Deploying the established FCCS course improved Rwandan healthcare provider knowledge and confidence across most critical care content areas. Therefore, this course represents a good first step in bridging the gaps noted in emerging critical care systems.