- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 4, 2017

The World Health Organization is looking to partner with pharmaceutical manufacturers to make expensive cancer medications more affordable and accessible to low- and middle-income countries, the group announced Thursday.

WHO said that in September, it will accept applications for from manufacturers who can reproduce two drugs, rituximab and trastuzumab, cancer medications that are part of the “WHO Essential Medicines List.”

WHO will assess the quality, safety and efficacy of the proposed biosimilars and, if found safe and effective, they will be made available for procurement by United Nations agencies.

Rituximab is used primarily to treat non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and specific strains of leukemia. Trastuzumbab is used in the treatment of breast cancer.

They are biotherapeutic medicines, which means they are made from living cells as opposed to synthesized chemicals. WHO is looking for manufacturers who can create generic versions of these two drugs.

“Innovator biotherapeutic products are often too expensive for many countries, so biosimilars are a good opportunity to expand access and support countries to regulate and use these medicines,” said Dr Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO assistant director general for Health Systems and Innovation.

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