NHRCK Chairperson’s Statement on Welcoming the application of Healthcare Benefit for ‘Kymriah’
- Partially covering cost of ‘Kymriah’ with the National Heath Insurance contributes to the promotion of right to life for children and adolescents -
- The process of registering newly-developed medications for healthcare benefit needs to be institutionalized at the earliest possible date -
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea(Chairperson Doohwan Song, hereinafter the ‘NHRCK’ or the ‘Commission’) hereby releases the statement welcoming the decision to partially cover ‘Kymriah’, the medicine to treat acute lymphocytic leukemia, with the National Health Insurance, opening up the possibility of further promoting the right to life, health and happiness for children and adolescents with the condition.
In October 2021, the complaint was filed to the NHRCK to report the violence of fundamental rights, including rights to life, due to the delay in the process of registering Kymriah on the list of medications which can be purchased with partial financial support through the National Health Insurance.
Kymriah is an anticancer drug, which was proven effective in curing ‘acute lymphocytic leukemia’ and ‘diffuse large B-cell lymphoma’. The newly-developed medication is also known as the ‘dream cancer cure’, as 8 out of 10 terminal-stage leukemia patients survived longer than the expected timeline after taking a dose of the medication. Kymriah, however, is not easily accessible as it costs 460 million won for a dose, without the cost coverage.
The NHRCK Child Rights Committee saw that the cost of the medication surpasses the threshold of which an individual can afford and the state-level solution, therefore, is necessary in order to tackle the financial challenges faced by the patients and their families. The Commission provided the opinion on 5 January 2022 to the Ministry of Health and Welfare that the system to promptly register new drugs to the National Health Insurance is needed, so that the patients receive the benefit as much as possible.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare, upon receiving the comment from the Commission, decided to allow the cost of Kymriah to be covered with the National Healthcare Insurance at the 7th session of the ‘Health Insurance Review Committee’, and the ‘Medication Benefit List and the Upper Limit for Medication Benefit’ list was updated according to the decision made. The cost of a dose of Kymriah dramatically went down to 5.98 million won, with the implementation of the updated medication benefit list as of 1 April 2022.
The decision to partially cover the cost of Kymriah with the National Health Insurance is highly commendable as it gives hope to hundreds of patients who had high chance of losing life within 3 to 6 months without the medication. The decision also gave hope of being fully cured.
However, Kymriah is just one of the examples of issues regarding the medical cost coverage. Though there are highly effective medications with less side effects currently available on the market, there could be cases where patients pass away because they simply cannot afford the cure or patients become financially vulnerable due to high medical costs, if the costs cannot be covered with the insurance. The government needs to consider introducing the policy of rapid registration system, as it is directly linked to the lives of the people.
The National Human Rights Commission will do its utmost so that our children can grow up maintaining the best possible health and to promote the children’s fundamental rights, including rights to life and health. The Commission hopes registering Kymriah on the healtcare benefit list becomes the starting point in making policies to further promote the rights to life and health of our children.