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 [3]. 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 [4]:

  • 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
  • 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
  • Ontario and the four Atlantic provinces (even New Brunswick, despite its recent drug reimbursement policy initiatives) have “limited universality” when it comes to drug coverage – oral cancer drugs are not reimbursed like IV cancer drugs, which are completely covered, because they are administered in-hospital