The Economist Intelligence Unit developed the Latin America Cancer Control Scorecard (LACCS) to rank 12 countries in Latin America (LATAM) on their performance in different areas of direct relevance to cancer access. Together these 12 countries accounted for 92% of cancer incidence and 91% of mortality in Central and South America in 2012.

Here are some of the key highlights from the LACCS report:

Wide variations within larger LATAM countries make it tougher for policies to impact access to cancer care

Among the 12 LATAM countries studied, Costa Rica has the most comprehensive national cancer control plan. In Argentina, where healthcare is the constitutional responsibility of the 24 provincial governments, big provincial disparities related to cancer types, socioeconomics, healthcare infrastructure make it more challenging to plan and implement cancer policies.

More of good, reliable data – especially on provinces of the larger LATAM countries – needed to better understand the cancer challenge  

The ongoing uncertainty around the cancer situation in LATAM remains one of its biggest cancer control challenges. To know where and how to provide services that tackle cancer in the region, data from key places that are sufficiently representative and granular is needed to enable strategic planning.

Governmental fragmentation in the larger states is part of the reason why getting a countrywide picture of cancer is very difficult. For example in Argentina’s 24 provinces, 23 have at least one population registry. But they don’t all collect the same data, nor do they structure their data the same way, even if they are the same data. Their quality standards also vary, and even whether cancer is a legally reportable disease depends on provincial, not national, regulation.

The situation is improving: as late as 2011 only 21% of countries in the entire region, including the Caribbean, reported any population-based cancer registry, a figure which had risen to 67% by 2014.

Cost considerations key for screening, affecting the response to cancer

Adopting screening methods that are valuable in high-income countries can be challenging in LATAM countries with more limited resources. One of the biggest recent challenges to Colombia’s screening programmes has been the drop in the value of its currency against the US dollar, in which much of the machinery used is priced.

The disparity between city and country in terms of cancer treatment is even starker than for screening

Most cancer specialists in LATAM are found in large, tertiary cancer centres in urban settings. In Peru, 85% of oncologists live in the capital, while some of the country’s states have none. In Colombia, over 60% of oncologists live in the four largest cities. Even smaller countries face this issue: in Panama which has the second-smallest land area of the 12 countries studied, the only public cancer treatment centre is in Panama City.

Medical equipment for cancer care in short supply

Few LATAM countries have sufficient radiotherapy equipment to cope with cancer needs. On average – in the seven countries where data can be found, 35% of radiotherapy machines were in the private sector.

Mammography equipment is also often in short supply, and in some areas up to 20% of machines require repair.

LATAM countries have also been slower than other parts of the world to obtain up-to-date equipment for radiotherapy

Cancer drug access ranks poorly for LATAM countries  

The “medicines availability” domain is among the weakest in the LACCS.

Increased government spending to finance the cost of cancer care in LATAM, but gaps remain

A few countries in this study, such as Costa Rica and Brazil, have what would qualify as universal healthcare coverage. In Brazil, spending by the public healthcare system on core elements of treatment— cancer surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy—rose by 66% between 2010 and 2015 to reach just over US$1bn at the end of the period.

Peru’s Plan Esperanza brought state outlays on cancer control from 2.3% of the health budget to 6%.

To grow the business in LATAM markets, companies need strategies that address their target market’s access challenges

Clearstate’s research insights and growth consulting services can help companies answer key questions on your target market:

  • How will healthcare policies and reforms in LATAM impact patient access
  • How developed are local health infrastructure to support access
  • Where are the gaps in access in different countries
  • What pricing, payment and financing arrangements can be explored to improve patient access
  • How can you localise patient assistance and patient advocacy programs to improve access

For more on the Economist Intelligence Unit’s report, download Cancer Control Access and Inequality in Latin America. This report was sponsored by Roche.

To speak to EIU Healthcare’s consulting team on how we can help you grow your business, please contact us at cs-info@clearstate.com.