The National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) has included a Specialist Anti-Breast Cancer Drug, (Herceptin) to the National Health Insurance Scheme’s (NHIS) list of medicines.

Ghana becomes the first country in the sub-Saharan African Region take such an action.

Herceptin is the brand name of a medicine called Trastuzumab + recombinant human hyaluronidase.

Herceptin is used to treat Breast Cancer, Esophageal Cancer and Stomach Cancer.

From July 2019 to July 2020, 230 Ghanaian patients, including a 25-year-old, have accessed this innovative treatment for Her2+ breast cancer under the NHIS.

The Authority adopted the Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) strategy to make the Herceptin drug affordable to beneficiaries. The NHIA’s partnership is for the one that can be administered by subcutaneous injection, which is an injection into a person’s thigh that takes a few minutes for breast cancer treatment.

Herceptin works by blocking the effects of HER2 and encouraging the immune system to attack and kill the cancer cells. Herceptin can help control the growth of cancer cells that contain high amounts of human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2).

High levels of HER2 are found in some types of breast, esophageal and stomach cancer, which helps the cancer cells grow and survive. These are known as HER2 positive cancers. About one (1) in five (5) breast and stomach cancers are HER2 positive.

Breast cancer forms in the cells of the breasts. This largely occurs in women and rarely in men. The most frequent cancer in women are cancers of the cervix, breast, liver, ovary and Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma (NHL).

Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer mortality in women in Ghana and a leading cause of cancer morbidity. According to the National Strategy for Cancer Control (NSCC 2014-2017), in Ghana, most patients, approximately 50-70%, present with advanced (stage III and stage IV) disease many months (8-10 months) after first noticing a change in their breast.

Symptoms of breast cancer include a lump in the breast, bloody discharge from the nipple and changes in the shape or texture of the nipple or breast. Treatment depends on the stage of cancer. It may consist of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.