Cancer drugs and prescriptions
Cancer drugs work to eliminate cancer cells, stop their spread and slow down the growth in different ways; drugs may also be used to lessen or relieve the side effects of cancer or treatments. In Canada, drugs are often paid for by public provincial drug plans, employer/private insurance plans, and/or out of pocket . Still, cancer patients, caregivers and their families can find themselves paying exorbitant amounts for cancer drugs.
Drug coverage across the provinces at a glance
To highlight some of the inconsistencies in cancer drug coverage across the country, CanCertainty released a white paper by the Cameron Institute, a public policy think-tank, which details the patchwork of provincial cancer coverage :
- Canadians living in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba have their cancer drugs paid by the provincial government regardless of their age, income level or whether they are intravenously or orally administered
- Provinces such as Ontario and the four Atlantic provinces do not primarily fund oral or injectable cancer medications. Patients needing take-home cancer medications fall back on a complex patchwork of partial assistance that may include their provincial drug plan (if eligible), private insurance (if any), manufacturers’ assistance programs (if any), fundraising (if possible), and personal savings and assets (if available) 
- Through different funding methods, Canadians in Quebec have both intravenous and oral cancer drugs reimbursed regardless of age or income level
- Oral, take-home cancer drugs are covered by the territorial governments but sometimes only with deductibles of less than $500
- As of April 19, 2012, Manitoba is the most recent province to universally fund oral cancer drugs through the new Manitoba Home Cancer Drug Program
 New Brunswick drug plan
New Brunswick is currently phasing in the New Brunswick Drug Plan: this will cover individuals regardless of age, gender or pre-existing medical conditions.
The New Brunswick Drug Plan is available to all New Brunswick residents who:
- have an active Medicare Card;
- do not have existing drug coverage (through a private plan or a government program); or
- have existing drug coverage that does not cover a specific drug that is included in the drug plan formulary or the resident has reached their yearly or lifetime maximum for that drug coverage
Phase 1 of the New Brunswick Drug Plan went from May 1, 2014 - March 31, 2015; enrolment in this phase is voluntary for New Brunswick residents who have a valid Medicare card. Phase 2, which came into effect on April 1, 2015, makes it mandatory for all New Brunswickers to have prescription drug insurance, whether through private insurance or enrolment in the New Brunswick Drug Plan .
To find more information about the drug plan and how to enroll please visit the Government of New Brunswick website.
Cancer drug coverage in Ontario and Atlantic Canada
Only certain provinces and territories will pick up all of the cost of cancer drugs listed on their formularies; for example, patients in Ontario and Atlantic Canada are subject to different reimbursements. Even for those with private insurance, many patients and their families residing in Ontario and Atlantic are still paying high costs.
Drug Coverage.ca offers information on reimbursement for prescription medications by providing information on types of private insurance plans, provincial/ territorial drug benefit programs, drug funding by provincial cancer agencies, and federal drug plans available in Canada.
Reaching out for financial advice from the healthcare team of the cancer patient is another excellent way to gain more information or point the individual in the direction of a pharmacist, pharmacy technician or social worker who can provide guidance .