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Patient Story: Carmen from the Philippines

We often hear stories of patients gaining access to treatment shortly after a cancer diagnosis, but that’s just the beginning. The cancers we support are chronic diseases, meaning patients must take medication daily to keep their cancer under control. Many patients, like Carmen from the Philippines, must move on to second- or third-line treatment if there are complications. Max team member, Nelia Medina, interviewed Carmen to capture her experience.

In 2011, Carmen developed a fever that lasted for weeks and began losing weight rapidly. After multiple doctors, tests, and misdiagnoses, she finally discovered she had chronic myeloid leukemia. Eventually, Carmen learned that her cancer could be managed through oral treatment, but the costs were prohibitive. Luckily her physician was a Max Foundation partner. She was able to enroll in our access program for imatinib at no cost, and all seemed well for a few years—until, that is, she stopped responding to her initial treatment.

With most drug donation programs, which provide just one treatment, Carmen’s story could have ended there. But at The Max Foundation we work with pharmaceutical partners to make available as many treatments as possible for each specific form of cancer we cover. Our goal is to ensure patients and their physicians have options throughout their journey, so they can access additional treatments if needed.

When imatinib stopped working on its own, Carmen feared her life was over. She even went so far as to sew her own funeral dress. But The Max Foundation was able to provide Carmen with a supplemental treatment to manage her blood platelet levels. When Carmen stopped responding to that new combination, we had next-line options ready and waiting. Today Carmen is alive and well, without fear, and managing her cancer with donated treatment, her physician’s care, and the support of her patient group.

Carmen and patients like her are not the only beneficiaries of our unique approach. Our pharmaceutical partners are recognized as innovative leaders in the treatment access field. Single-company/single-drug programs are only effective so long as patients respond to the specific drug provided. By working with a program like ours that provides treatment options across companies, our industry partners are able to prolong life—and improve the quality of that life—in ways that no single company can do on its own.


Meg Mager

Meg Mager is a Senior Program Manager with The Max Foundation. In this role, she works with pharmaceutical companies and international distributors to increase access to cancer treatment for patients in low- and middle-income countries.



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