Since thousands of people in Lebanon do not have social security or private health insurance, public health care is often the only option for the chronically ill.
To support vulnerable communities, the Lebanese Ministry of Health established the Chronic Drug Distribution Center 25 years ago. The ability of the center to serve people depends on the availability of medicines and funds. Unfortunately, there are often shortages in both. Anera recently delivered a shipment of essential lung cancer medicines that were donated by its trusted partner, Americares, and distributed through local partner YMCA.
“Around 14,500 patients use the center each month, including Lebanese citizens, Syrian refugees, and patients of other nationalities,” says Dr. Tony Harb, director of the center. “We offer patients vital medicines for various chronic diseases, like cancer, infectious diseases, and neurological disorders.”
In 2014, more than 30 percent of cancer-related deaths in Lebanon were caused by cancers of the trachea, bronchus or lung, according to the World Health Organization. “Lung cancer is of the top three most prevalent cancers in Lebanon,” adds Dr. Harb.
“The price of a single dose of the medicine Afatinib is about $2,570, which is unaffordable for the vast majority of patients who visit the center,” he says. “If the patient reacts positively to Afatinib, we can provide them with three to six boxes.”
Afatinib limits the spreading of cancerous tumors in the lungs, and increases a patient’s chance of disease-free survival, explains Dr. Harb. “There is often a shortage of such medicines, especially costly ones like those for cancer and communicable diseases,” says Dr. Harb. “This is why these kinds of donations are much appreciated, both by staff and by the patients who get relief and a reprieve from their cancer.”