BACKGROUND: Limited access to drugs is a crucial barrier to reducing the growing impact of cancer in low- and middle-income countries. Approaches based on drug donations or adaptive pricing strategies yield promising but varying results across countries or programs, The Glivec International Patient Assistance Program (GIPAP) is a program designed to provide imatinib free of charge to patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) or gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST). The objective of this work was to identify institutional factors associated with enrollment and patient survival in GIPAP.
METHODS: We analyzed follow-up data from 4,946 patients participating in 47 institutions within 44 countries between 2003 and 2010. Active status in the program was considered as a proxy for survival.
RESULTS: Presence of ≥1 hematologist or oncologist at the institution was associated with increased patient enrollment. After adjusting for individual factors such as age (>55 years: Hazard Ratio [HR] = 1.42 [1.16; 1.73]; p = 0.001) and initial stage of disease (accelerated or blast crisis at diagnosis: HR = 4.16 [1.87; 9.25]; p < 10⁻⁴), increased survival was found in institutions with research capabilities (HR = 0.55 [0.35; 0.86]; p = 0.01) and those with enrollment of >5 patients/year into GIPAP (HR = 0.48 [0.35; 0.67]; p < 10⁻⁴), while a non-significant trend for decreased survival was found for treatment at a public institution (HR = 1.32 [0.95; 1.84]; p = 0.10). The negative impact of an accelerated form of CML was attenuated by the presence of ≥1 hematologist or oncologist at the institution (interaction term HR = 0.43 [0.18; 0.99]; p = 0.05).
CONCLUSIONS: Application of these findings to the support and selection of institutions participating in GIPAP may help to optimize care and outcomes for CML and GIST patients in the developing world. These results may also be applicable to the treatment of patients with other forms of cancer, due to the overlap of infrastructure and staff resources used to treat a variety of cancer indications. A multi-sector approach is required to address these barriers.