New hope for South Africans with multiple myeloma

Johannesburg – Friday 26 February 2021: Local oncology company, Eurolab, has launched South Africa’s latest lenalidomide generic, allowing South African cancer patients suffering from multiple myeloma to receive life-saving treatment previously only available to the top 0.1% of earners. Lenalidomide is listed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as an essential medicine, yet many patients in South Africa die of multiple myeloma because they cannot afford the treatment.

Eurolab Group CEO, Lynne du Toit, says, “In keeping with our vision to bring down the cost of cancer treatment and expand access to care, we are proud to announce the launch of Eurolen, South Africa’s first lenalidomide generic.

“Historically, the only lenalidomide product on the market cost over R60 000 per box. Over an average maintenance course of treatment, a patient needed to pay over R720 000 per year. Most medical aids cover R200 000 per year for cancer treatment, leaving patients to fork out a co-payment of over R520 000 for a chance to survive their cancer.

“Eurolen costs R8 711 per 25 mg box. By slashing the cost of treatment down by over R10 000 per month, we are offering renewed hope to South Africans fighting multiple myeloma. Patients who are treated with Eurolen will therefore be fully covered by their annual medical aid oncology benefit.

“Furthermore, treatment of multiple myeloma can last eight years and beyond, meaning that patients needed to pay some R4 million in co-payments. It was clear to us that something needed to be done: the cost of lenalidomide in South Africa is out of reach for most people.”

In multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer, cancerous plasma cells accumulate in the bone marrow and crowd out healthy blood cells. Rather than produce helpful antibodies, the cancer cells produce abnormal proteins that build up throughout the body and damage organs.

Du Toit explains that, “Internationally and locally, the originator of lenalidomide has long been associated with profiteering at the expense of cancer patients. Currently, there is an ongoing United States enquiry regarding the price of the lenalidomide originator, where executives continue to receive massive salaries directly related to the price of the drug.”

Eurolab was founded in 2011 on the principle of improving access to cancer treatment by making cancer medication more affordable. Since its inception, this innovative oncology company has driven the price of cancer medicine in South Africa down by as much as 53% in molecules in which it competes compared to an average price increase of 31% in molecules in which it does not compete.

Du Toit concludes, “Today, patients are paying less than half of what they were in 2010. Our strategic focus remains on driving down costs, enhancing care and making more treatments, therapies and technologies available to cancer patients.”