Press release 23 May 2022

Improving access to and use of essential life-saving cancer medicines in LLMICs


This news release was originally published by UICC on 20 May 2022. IFPMA and many of its member companies are partners of ATOM Coalition.

The ATOM Coalition brings together the most experienced organisations to increase access to quality-assured essential cancer medicines in low- and lower middle-income countries, and to help countries develop the capacity for their proper use

The Access to Oncology Medicines (ATOM) Coalition is an innovative collaboration model that will increase access to cancer medicines in LLMICs in a novel and sustainable way.

On 22 May at a side-event during the World Health Assembly in Geneva, UICC and multiple partners announced the establishment of a unique partnership, the Access to Oncology Medicines (ATOM) Coalition. ATOM brings together the most experienced organizations operating in the field to increase access to quality-assured essential cancer medicines in low- and lower middle-income countries (LLMICs)[1] and to help countries develop the capacity for their proper use.

It is estimated that less than 50% of the cancer medicines on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines (WHO EML) are currently available in LLMICs. In 2020, more than 3.5 million new cancer cases were diagnosed in LLMICs and an estimated 2.3 million premature deaths were caused by cancer. If left unchecked, deaths from cancer in LLMICs are expected to rise to 4 million by 2040.[2]

“Improving health outcomes for people living with cancer in low- and lower-middle income countries is a must. Building on ‘same old’ ways of working will not achieve this goal. We need to push ourselves to share ideas and expertise, inspire new thinking, and co-create new types of solutions for LMICs. We applaud the ATOM Coalition’s efforts to define a multi-stakeholder model that encourages global and local collaborations to positively impact the lives of people living with cancer.”

– Thomas Cueni, Director General, International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA)

Today, there are many access initiatives in operation that seek to improve the delivery of essential cancer medicines to people who need them in LLMICs. The ATOM Coalition brings these excellent initiatives together to generate synergies, exchange best practices, and streamline efforts between in-country and global partners.

ATOM will build on UICC’s network of member organizations in selected countries as well as on the range of global and country-level public and private sector partners with expertise in implementing cancer-focused access programmes. This will amplify the effectiveness of ATOM Coalition partners and enable countries to increase access to diagnostics and essential cancer medicines.

In the first phase, ATOM partners will work collectively in a sub-set of LLMICs, taking into consideration the current presence of ATOM partners, health system readiness, diagnostic capability, the number of essential medicines already listed on their NEMLs, and the existence of other access programmes in the country. In parallel, ATOM will launch a capacity building component in up to 10 countries, focused on addressing the critical access challenges noted above. ATOM will expand to other LLMICs over time and will focus on increasing access to medicines in over half of countries currently classified as LLMICs.

The Coalition will be structured as an informal alliance comprised of all ATOM partners and key representatives from target countries and led by a governing council. UICC will serve as Secretariat of the Coalition and coordinate Coalition partners in their shared ambition to work collectively in target ATOM countries. The Coalition will also include regional and national organizations within its governance structure, ensuring that it properly represents the needs of cancer patients in LLMICs.

[1]  The World Bank defines low-income economies as those with a GNI per capita, calculated using the World Bank Atlas method, of $1,045 or less in 2020; lower middle-income economies are those with a GNI per capita between $1,046 and $4,095. is external).

[2] Globocan 2020: For Low-Income Countries: is external); for Low Middle Income Countries: is external)


The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) represents over 90 innovative pharmaceutical companies and associations around the world. Our industry’s almost three million employees discover, develop, and deliver medicines and vaccines that advance global health. Based in Geneva, IFPMA has official relations with the United Nations and contributes industry expertise to help the global health community improve the lives of people everywhere. For more information, visit

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Elliot Dunster