Blue Tree program: A single platform for supporting cancer patients in India

Partnership objectives

  • Create a comprehensive and integrated patient support program to overcome the multiple hurdles that a patient has to go through to receive treatment for cancer
  • Ensure that all aspects of treatment are covered from disease awareness and testing, funding solutions, home delivery of drugs, adherence support and standardised reports   

There are many barriers to treatment of cancer in India There are many barriers to treatment of cancer in India Copyright Roche

What are the health needs and challenges?

In India, more than 1.3 million people develop cancer each year. Cancer is the third highest cause of death amongst non-communicable diseases (NCDs).  Although affordability is often cited as the cause of this poor cancer care access, there are many other barriers to treatment. These include late diagnosis, limited and hard to-reach infrastructure, low awareness of treatment options, inadequate biomarker testing, lack of reimbursement of medicines, and poor adherence to treatment. Only one out of four patients who are prescribed medicines actually starts the treatment and only a few of these barriers are being addressed.

India does not have universal access to healthcare or centralized payers, however it does have large central and regional healthcare funding programs. These programs typically offer coverage to government employees and their families. A few programs are also designed for the economically disadvantaged segment of the population.  In addition, various NGOs (non-governmental organisations) and pharmaceutical companies provide patient assistance programmes. 

Hence, it can be confusing for a patient to be able to navigate these multiple challenges and platforms for initiating cancer therapy. 

Description of partnership activities and how they address needs and challenges

In order to properly tackle the full range of barriers to cancer care, Roche India developed The Blue Tree programme. This single platform supports patients and their families with disease awareness and testing, funding solutions, home delivery of medicines, free medicines, treatment adherence support and standardised reports.

The program is managed by Saarathi Healthcare and supported by Roche. Once patients have joined the programme, the tele-coordinators from Saarathi stay in constant contact with patients by helping them navigate through The Blue Tree service offerings like:

  • Liaising with Oncquest and Dr. Lal Pathlabs for diagnostic testing.
  • Providing clear and reliable information on cancer to help them understand and manage their disease and treatment
  • Guiding patients who are eligible for government reimbursement through completing the documentation.
  • Help patient recall and/or identify additional sources of funding.
  • Aid patients to finance their treatment through a bank loan with ICICI Bank, provided at attractive terms. The loan can be repaid within 6-60 months to the bank.
  • Assist eligible patients unable to continue treatment due to financial reasons obtain medicines at no cost from S K Distributor to support patients completing the final stages of therapy.
  • Address issues of reach and availability and ensure delivery of Roche medicines at a location convenient to the patient through the service of S K Distributor and Medybiz.
  • Saarathi tele-coordinators call the patients once a month to remind them of their infusion dates and also 48 hours prior to their infusion.

Summary of impact and forward looking information

The programme has received strong support from physicians. In 2015, more than 750 doctors supported the programme, resulting in over 1,200 patients enrolling. Patients who enrolled showed a 40% increase in therapy adherence rates.  Program statistics indicate that in 2015, 50% of patients who enquired about the programme enrolled and benefited from its services. This percentage has increased to 76% in Q1 2016 alone. 

Since March 2015, The Blue Tree has helped over 2600 patients and aims to add more services like home infusion to make treatment easier for patients. An additional impact of this offering is the increasing trust and value established with physicians and the doubling of patient enrolments per month over the last 6 months.

Partnership information

Company(ies) Roche

Partner(s) Dr. Lal Pathlabs, ICICI Bank, Medybiz, Oncquest, S K Distributors, Saarathi Healthcare

Type of Partner(s) Academia / Hospitals, Other Business, Professional Associations

Therapeutic Focus Women and Children's Health, Non-Communicable Diseases

Disease(s) Cancer, Children's Health, Women's Health

Program Type(s) Availability of Treatment - Financial Support, Prevention Programs - Awareness & Outreach

Region(s) South Asia

Number of Countries 1

Country(ies) India

Start Date 2015

Anticipated completion date Ongoing

« Even on a heavy rainy day The Blue Tree field coordinator fully drenched took all the pain to come home and collect the relevant papers for the last dose. The team from Mumbai had also coordinated the supply so efficiently and in time. »