Seven years ago, Ivan Zelenskiy was feeling tired and stressed. He thought it was connected to his hard work leading a team of engineers for the power plant in Kremenchuk, Ukraine. But during a health test at work, he received the shocking diagnosis of chronic myeloid leukemia.
At home, he searched on the internet and discovered it was blood cancer. He and his family felt overwhelmed, unsure of what it would mean for his future. It’s rare for men under 45 to contract this type of cancer. It gets worse quickly if left untreated.
Ivan was fortunate to be able to afford the comprehensive tests necessary to get an official diagnosis and thus prescribed treatment. Eighty percent of chronic myeloid leukemia patients go into remission after treatment.
But Ivan was shocked to learn the daily drug regimen of Imatinib, a biological therapy medicine, cost US$1,000 per month – more than twice his monthly salary.
In Ukraine at the time, the government only supplied medication for a portion of the total number of patients. Medicines were often procured regionally, so access depended on local budgets and efficient procurement.
At the time that Ivan was diagnosed, two out of three patients were not receiving their medication, which meant they were slowly dying.
Ivan started to look into how to afford his treatment, which led him to researching patients’ rights in Ukraine.