22 May 2022

Improving access to and use of essential life-saving cancer medicines in LLMICs

The Access to Oncology Medicines (ATOM) Coalition is an innovative collaboration model that will increase access to cancer medicines in LLMICs in a novel and sustainable way.

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On 22 May at a side-event during the World Health Assembly in Geneva, UICC and multiple partners announced the establishment of a unique partnership, the Access to Oncology Medicines (ATOM) Coalition. ATOM brings together the most experienced organisations operating in the field to increase access to quality-assured essential cancer medicines in low- and lower middle-income countries (LLMICs) [1] and to help countries develop the capacity for their proper use.   

It is estimated that less than 50% of the cancer medicines on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines (WHO EML) are currently available in LLMICs. In 2020, more than 3.5 million new cancer cases were diagnosed in LLMICs and an estimated 2.3 million premature deaths were caused by cancer. If left unchecked, deaths from cancer in LLMICs are expected to rise to 4 million by 2040.[2]   

“Simply making affordable cancer medicines available does not guarantee that people living with cancer will receive the medicines they need at the right time. This new partnership is set up to ensure that low- and lower-middle income countries get the support they need to receive the essential cancer medicines where they are currently lacking, as well as the training on their use so that their availability becomes sustainable long term and addresses the specific needs of each country with respect to its cancer burden.” 
Prof. Anil D’Cruz, President of UICC and Director of Oncology at Apollo Hospitals in India

Today, there are many access initiatives in operation that seek to improve the delivery of essential cancer medicines to people who need them in LLMICs. The ATOM Coalition brings these excellent initiatives together to generate synergies, exchange best practices and streamline efforts between in-country and global partners.   

 ATOM will build on UICC’s network of member organisations in selected countries as well as on the range of global and country-level public and private sector partners with expertise in implementing cancer-focused access programmes. This will amplify the effectiveness of ATOM Coalition partners and enable countries to increase access to diagnostics and essential cancer medicines.  

In the first phase, ATOM partners will work collectively in a sub-set of LLMICs, taking into consideration the current presence of ATOM partners, health system readiness, diagnostic capability, the number of essential medicines already listed on their NEMLs, and the existence of other access programmes in the country. In parallel, ATOM will launch a capacity building component in up to ten countries, focused on addressing the critical access challenges noted above. ATOM will expand to other LLMICs over time and will focus on increasing access to medicines in over half of countries currently classified as LLMICs.   

The Coalition is comprised of all ATOM partners and key representatives from target countries and led by a governing council. UICC will serve as Secretariat of the Coalition and coordinate Coalition partners in their shared ambition to work collectively in target ATOM countries. The Coalition will also include regional and national organisations within its governance structure, ensuring that it properly represents the needs of cancer patients in LLMICs.  

For more information on the ATOM Coalition, including a full list of partners 


[1] The World Bank defines low-income economies as those with a GNI per capita, calculated using the World Bank Atlas method, of $1,045 or less in 2020; lower middle-income economies are those with a GNI per capita between $1,046 and $4,095.

[2] Globocan 2020: For Low-Income Countries:; for Low Middle Income Countries:

Last update

Monday 30 May 2022

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