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CANCER

French cancer docs blast greed of drugs companies

A group of 110 France’s most prominent cancer specialists have issued an alarm call over the rising costs of the drugs used to treat the disease, accusing the pharmaceutical industry of cashing in on people’s misery.

French cancer docs blast greed of drugs companies
The French doctors the pharmaceutical industry is making 'obscene profits'. Photo: Jeff Pachoud/AFP

In an open letter published in the French daily Le Figaro, 110 cancer specialists from some of the country’s most respected institutions, including the Institut Curie, Institut Gustave Roussy and Collège de France, slammed the rising costs of cancer treatments in both France and the rest of the world.

Despite many cancer cures being on the horizon, “the increasing, and now even exorbitant, prices are jeopardizing these hopes,” the doctors wrote, adding the hikes were “unjustified”.

France is respected for its successes in treating different sorts of cancers, but the trend of rising drug costs could prevent people from having equal and just access to proper treatment, they said.

“The bubble is about to explode,” Professor Jean-Paul Vernant, the ex-president of France’s national institute of cancer and one of the authors of the letter, warned, pointing to “the obscene profits of the pharmaceutical industry”.

Unless changes are made, France could end up in a similar situation as the United States, the doctors warn.

In the US, the cancer treatment drug imatinib, also known as Glivec, is more than twice as expensive than it is in France, at a cost of around $8,400 per month (€7,500).

Despite the high prices, less than 15 percent of the profits made are re-invested into more research, they said, calling for a more democratic and transparent process in deciding the costs of cancer treatment drugs.

Earlier this year, a French study showed that the survival rates among sufferers of the most common cancers in France – breast, prostate and colorectal cancers – have improved significantly in the past few years.

The stats were taken from a comparison of two separate five-year blocks – 1989 to 1993 and 2005 to 2010.

When it came to prostate cancer, the most common cancer to affect French men, the study showed that the survival rate had jumped from 72 to 94 percent.

Breast cancer, which remains the leading cause of cancer-related deaths among French women, also saw improved survival rates, from 80 percent to 87 percent.

Lastly, colorectal cancer survival rates improved from 54 to 63 percent over the period.

The improvements were put down to “major therapeutic advances” in the early 2000s, and a higher proportion of cancers detected at an early stage thanks to improved screening practices.

The latest statistics from France's National Cancer Institute, from 2012, show that France had 57,000 new cases of prostate cancer each year, 48,000 reports of breast cancer, and 42,000 cases of colorectal cancers.

 

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HEALTH

French risk ‘preventable’ cancers by smoking, drinking and eating unhealthily

The French are needlessly putting themselves at risk of developing cancer by smoking, drinking and eating unhealthily, a new study reveals.

French risk 'preventable' cancers by smoking, drinking and eating unhealthily
Photo: AFP
The study by French health authority Santé publique France said that four out of ten cancer cases could be avoided by a change in behaviour. 
 
And in France that means less smoking and drinking alcohol, which were the top two causes of “preventable” cases of cancer in France, followed by poor diet and obesity, according to figures released by the health authority on Monday. 
 
Each of these factors kill a lot more people than they should, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and Santé publique France.
 
Of the 346,000 cases of cancer diagnosed in 2015 among those aged 30 and over, “142,000 (41 percent) could have been avoided if the entire population had not been exposed to the risk factors studied, or if exposure had been limited,” said the IARC. 
 
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Photo: Alpha/Flickr

Cancer is the leading cause of death in France, ahead of cardiovascular diseases, with tumors killing 164,000 people in 2013, according to France's Ministry of Health.

Smoking-related cancers such as lung cancer, among others, mainly affect the working classes.
 
The risk of getting these cancers is 1.5 to 2 times higher among the 20 percent most disadvantaged people in France compared to the 20 percent at the other end of the spectrum, said the IARC.
 
“Too few French people are aware of the risks they are taking,” said Health Minister Agnès Buzyn, who has taken a strong stance against smoking in France, in March. 
 
Alcohol is responsible for 8 percent of new “preventable” cancer cases, with the authors of the study saying that France could do much more to prevent alcoholism and advocating “increasing prices and taxes” on alcohol. 
 
Meanwhile, poor diet and obesity are each responsible for 5.4 percent of new “preventable” cancer cases, with the IARC pointing to the risks of a “low consumption of fruits, vegetables, dietary fiber and dairy products combined with a high consumption of red meats and processed meats”. 
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