China Charity Federation (CCF) is giving out free drugs worth 200 million yuan (about 27.6 million U.S. dollars) in an effort to help cancer sufferers with financial difficulties.
The drugs, IRESSA, also called Jifeitini Tablets, were donated by the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company Astra Zeneca.
The tablets will be sent to patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). With its function of inhibiting an enzyme important to the growth of cancer cells, IRESSA is commonly used in lung cancer treatment.
A total of 72.5 million yuan (10 million U.S. dollars) worth of IRESSA has already been distributed to patients free of charge through 16 member units of the CCF around the nation.
"The company will continue to donate another 130.5 million yuan(17.8 U.S. dollars) worth of IRESSA to the CCF this year so as to help more lung cancer sufferers," said Qi Ruitian, vice-president of Astra-Zeneca China Co., Ltd. at the donation ceremony held on Tuesday.
To get the free drug, the applicants should meet several requirements, such as having received at least one anti-tumor chemotherapy treatment, and having used Astra-Zeneca IRESSA for at least six months before the application.
Lung cancer has become the top killing cancer in China. Nearly 500,000 new cases of lung cancer are diagnosed each year, with the NSCLC patients accounting for more than 85 percent of the total.
More than two thirds of the NSCLC sufferers are with mid- and advanced stages of carcinoma, which means the chance of wiping out lung cancer through surgery has largely vanished and they would have to mainly rely on drug treatment.
However, the drug cost is so high that many low-income patients can hardly afford it.
"The charity program helps me to relieve the financial burden, it also inspires me to fight against cancer with greater courage," said Liu You, a patient who has benefited from the free drug.
"This program not only gives patients hope for survival, but also shows a humanitarian spirit of all walks of the society in saving and helping the weak and the poor," said Liu Guolin, the CCF's secretary-general.
Founded in 1994, China Charity Federation and its branches at various levels have received more than 6 billion yuan (0.8 US dollars) in donation.
(Xinhua News Agency January 24, 2008)