Revive to Survive Officers
Minuri De Silva
Social Media Chair
Prashan De Mel
Membership & Recruitment Chair
In Sri Lanka, the government provides optimal health services to the best of its ability. However, due to the high cost of cancer care, the government based efforts need to be complemented by donors and non-governmental agencies. For example, the government spends about Rs.9 million (approx: $71,000) for each patient with breast cancer, but this does not cover all of the necessary drugs and care that the patient requires.
Many of the latest drugs used are very expensive and cannot be afforded by the government's health budget. Even if they are supplied, they must come through the long process of government procurement procedures. This leads to a shortage of drugs in the government-run pharmacies, forcing patients to purchase medication from private pharmacies.
In many cases, the burden of purchasing these expensive medications falls on patients who are unable to afford them. Depending on the type of cancer, progression of the disease, and treatment protocols, many patients frequently require multiple drugs as well as multiple doses. Most of these patients come from extremely poor socioeconomic circumstances, and finding funds for transportation is a challenge in itself. The majority of these patients are not in a position to purchase expensive medications which lead to poor outcomes and at times even death.
Revive to Survive aims to identify patients in need at the National Cancer Institute in Sri Lanka, and supply the required drugs. We started our journey by recognizing that many of the pediatric cancer patients did not have access to a life saving drug known as Neupogen. This drug helps patients by strengthening their immune system, which usually gets depressed after undergoing treatments such as chemotherapy. Patients with depressed immunity frequently get life threatening bacterial infections that lead to hospitalizations and often death. Partly due to Revive to Survive's efforts around funding this drug for patients and raising awareness on its importance, the Sri Lankan Government now provides this drug to those who need it.
This achievement further motivated Revive to Survive as the organization could now see that their impact was larger than they realized. As a result, a new program called "Enhance for a Chance" was started, which allowed for donors to give a set dollar amount per month to be allocated towards the drugs needed most. This program allowed for more flexibility on the recipients' end as they could now use the funds according to the need of their patients in that month rather than restricting the funds to one drug. It also allowed Revive to Survive the opportunity to research new ways to help while still providing support to those in need on a monthly basis.
While researching the needs of the patients we sought to help, we discovered a test that is typically administered in the USA, but rarely administered in Sri Lanka. This test is commonly known as Genetic Testing. It allows the hospital to gain valuable insight into the strain of cancer affecting their patients. Consequently, the patients are able to receive tailored treatment to their needs and potentially save money in the long run. For instance, boys are more likely to develop different strains of leukemia than girls so it makes sense that their treatment is adjusted accordingly. However, this isn't always the case, but Genetic Testing allows the doctors to know prior to prescribing generic treatment. In March 2018, Revive to Survive held a fundraiser specifically meant to fund these tests for patients who were unable to afford them and raised over $35,000! That's enough to cover an estimated 90% of all new pediatric cancer patients in Sri Lanka!
The best part is that we are just getting started! We hope you join us on our journey to be a voice for those abroad and help in the best way we know how!