Background: Access to cancer care is an issue in low and low middle-income countries. The problem is worse with respect to access to new therapies like checkpoint inhibitors. Hence, we decided to audit our practice in the head and neck and thoracic medical oncology unit from 2015 to 2019 to study the accessibility of checkpoint inhibitors and factors influencing it.
Methods: All patients who were registered in the head and neck and thoracic medical oncology unit between 2015 and 2019 were included in the study. Patients who received immunotherapy were identified from the prospective database of immunotherapy maintained by the department. We made a list of patients who were eligible for immunotherapy per year and identified how many of them received recommended immunotherapy. The indication for eligibility of immunotherapy was based on published pivotal data and it was applicable from the date of publication of the study online. Descriptive statistics were performed. For nominal and ordinal variable percentage with 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) was provided. Factors impacting the accessibility of immunotherapy were identified.
Findings: A total of 15,674 patients were identified who required immunotherapy; out of them only 444 (2.83%, 95% CI: 2.58–3.1) received it. Among head and neck cancer patients, 4.5% (156 out of 3,435) received immunotherapy versus 2.35% (288 out of 12,239) among thoracic cancer patients (p < 0.001). Among the general category (low socioeconomic), 0.29% (28 out of 9,405 ) versus 6.6% (416 out of 6,269) among the private category (high socioeconomic) received immunotherapy (p < 0.001). While 3.7% (361 out of 9,737) among males versus 1.39% (83 out of 5,937) females received immunotherapy (p < 0.001). There was also a temporal trend seen in the accessibility of immunotherapy (p < 0.001).
Conclusion: The accessibility of immunotherapy is below 3% in India. Patients with head and neck cancers, those registered as private category and male patients had higher access to this therapy. There was also a temporal trend observed suggesting increased accessibility over the years.