Advocacy is a strategy used around the world by NGOs, activists, and even policy makers themselves to create, reform or influence policies and its effective implementation and enforcement. It is a process of campaigning or debating an issue to come up with a consensus on course of action to change the situation. CPAA is an active crusader when it comes to effecting policies relating to the rights of cancer patients. It has been recognised globally for its campaigns on creating awareness about anti-tobacco legislation and assisting in its implementation, and making new generation medicines available at affordable costs.
While COTPA anti tobacco laws were introduced in 2004, it has been through the efforts of NGOs like CPAA that they have been enforced. Working closely with needy patients, CPAA recognises governmental policies that are detrimental to their cause. We have worked to make sure the best, newest and unfortunately most expensive medical treatments do not remain out of the grasp of those who need them for financial reasons alone.
Anti-tobacco campaign: CPAA has been globally recognised for its campaigns such as Tobacco Free Workplace, Tobacco Free Bus Stations and Tobacco Free Police Stations, Tobacco Free Auto Rickshaw, the recently launched Tobacco Free Post Office, Anti-tobacco legislation and assisting in implementation of the policies. CPAA has also successfully led a campaign against chewable tobacco, a major menace in India, resulting in ban of manufacture of such products in Maharashtra. To begin with CPAA involved the press and dialogued at length on the implications of the judgment. It went one step further by requesting corporates to declare their workplaces as Tobacco – Free zones. CPAA then counseled and encouraged all non-smokers in the work place to vocalize and assert their rights. This led to tremendous awareness. By making the environment less tolerant of smoking, it brought pressure on the smoker.
A survey conducted on 3,000 policemen from 33 police stations in the city by CPAA revealed that a high percentage of policemen in the Mumbai Police force were addicted to tobacco. The policemen were counseled and workshops for de-addiction were conducted by CPAA. A drastic reduction in tobacco use in the policeman was observed. This initiative of CPAA to make police stations tobacco-free was greatly appreciated by the Mumbai Police.
Tobacco Free Auto Rickshaw: It is the aim of CPAA’s Advocacy and Prevention Program to work with communities deprived of medical care. An extensive survey conducted by CPAA in 2019, among 3,000 auto-rickshaw drivers revealed that a staggering 85% of them were tobacco users and 45% out of these were found to have precancerous lesions and conditions such as plakia, sub-mucous Fibrosis, Biopsy, FNAC(advice) etc. The camps were conducted by ENT and Dental surgeons in various suburbs of Mumbai.
A significant causative factor for tobacco consumption was found to be occupational stress that kills hunger, addiction, boredom, exposure to pollution and nature of work that keeps them away from family. The fact that auto-rickshaw drivers are regularly exposed to stress beyond the range of normal human experiences is a known fact established by various studies. The study also found a significant link between cause of consumption of tobacco and occurrence of cancer and precancerous lesions among the auto-rickshaw drivers. A periodic oral health examination and health promotion strategy to sensitize these individuals plays a key role in refraining them from using flavoured addictive carcinogens.
In association with Mr Shashank Rao, President Mumbai Auto-rickshaw Taximen’s Union, CPAA initiated a program to hold tobacco cessation programs and counseling for habitués; regular follow up at CPAA’s Diagnostic centre and any further investigations required, free of cost for those with early symptoms or with patches in their mouth; stress management programs to deal with the reasons that push them towards this dangerous habit and extensive awareness programs educating them and their families on the ill-effects of tobacco.
It has been rewarding to see that some of the auto-rickshaw drivers have agreed to give up the habit. Some had developed the habit over last 25 years or more and after the intervention by CPAA, some have promised to support CPAAs fight against tobacco by being Advocates. Click here to know more
Campaign for affordable drugs:
Affordable drugs to treat COVID-19: Since the out-break of the COVID-19 pandemic, CPAA’s efforts to provide support to cancer patients have been impacted considerably. It is a fact that patients who are living with cancer, and are undergoing chemotherapy and/ or radical radiotherapy for lung cancer, and patients with blood and bone marrow cancer are particularly vulnerable to serious illness if they get COVID-19. With a gap in active cancer treatment some cancers could obstruct and some could metastasize. The pandemic poses a high risk for these patients with compromised immunity to deteriorate or succumb to COVID-19.
In February 2020, Remdesivir, one of the most promising medicines for treating COVID 19 was granted a patent in which would essentially compromise efforts to introduce affordable generic versions of Remdesivir in case of positive clinical trial outcomes. WHO (World Health Organisation) has included this medicine in its multi-locational trail known as SOLIDARITY Trail. Concerned about the COVID-19 risk on cancer patients, CPAA has approached the Central Government of India, demanding the revocation of the patent under Section 66 or 64 of the Patents Act. The patent titled COMPOUNDS FOR TREATING FILOVIRIDAE INFECTIONS (Patent Number: 332280 ) is granted against the provisions of the Patents Act. Section 66 of the Patents Act deals with the revocation of patents in the public interest. It is imperative at a time like this that no monopoly rights be granted, so that more manufacturers can produce the drug to be made available to all the people who need it, at affordable costs.
Affordable drugs for CML patients: CPAA spear-headed and won a seven year long relentless battle against a multinational pharmaceutical company, in the Supreme court of India to make an expensive life-saving drug available at an affordable price to scores of Chronic Myeloid Leukemia patients. The cost of the patented drug Glivec is Rs. 1.2 Lakhs for a month, the Generic version cost is Rs. 6,000 per month. Yet for several underprivileged cancer patients in India the drug continues to be expensive. CPAA realised that fight can come to its logical victory only when the medicine is finally able to reach the patient. It will make life-saving drugs affordable and consequently result in saving many lives, not only in India but over 75 other countries where India exports generic drugs. This Supreme court verdict not only affects Glivec but will also prevent patenting of other older compounds and avoid ever-greening of patented products. Cancer Patients Aid Association represented the cause of patients in this case fought along with Advocate Anand Grover and his team at Lawyer’s Collective.