January 21, 2016 – Health Ministers’ Meeting Update #2

VANCOUVER, January 21st, 2016 – Canadian Cancer Survivor Network President and CEO Jackie Manthorne (left) and CCSN Health Policy Consultant Louise Binder (right) are in Vancouver for events taking place around Canada’s Health Ministers meeting.

Cancer Patient Groups Hopeful Prescription Drug Talks Will Eliminate Existing Drug Access Disparities Across Canada
Patient groups attending the Ministers’ meetings in Vancouver waited patiently outside the private media conference to learn that Health Ministers are going to begin talks toward a national prescription drug plan. They congratulated the Ontario Health Minister, the Honorable Dr. Eric Hoskins, for his determination to see such a plan see the light of day after so many false starts in the past.

We hope that such a plan will close the gap in access to cancer drugs across Canada. For years take home cancer drugs have been provided by public health plans in Western Canada and in Quebec but not in other provinces. A national plan should correct this inequity in access to these life-saving medications. Hopefully, patients will no longer have to move from one province to another or mortgage their family’s future to stay alive.

We are, however, concerned at the reference by the Ministers to a national list of drugs for public coverage. This could lead to decreased access to cancer treatments presently available to patients in some provinces and territories.

We are also encouraged by Joe Biden’s announcement yesterday that the U.S. will speed up approval of new cancer treatments that are changing some cancers from a death sentence to a chronic manageable disease. With the federal government entering the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance we hope that the same will happen in Canada. This will lower the prices of these drugs. A pan-Canadian prescription drug plan will potentially make these accessible to all people in Canada who need them.

The devil is in the details. Patient groups seek to be consulted to ensure that the interests of all patients, especially those presently forgotten in public health systems, are including in the development of this prescription drug plan.

Oncology groups laud federal government’s decision to join the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance (pCPA)

But will it really increase access to treatments?

VANCOUVER, January 20, 2016 – A coalition of national oncology patient groups is pleased that the Federal government will join its provincial and territorial counterparts to negotiate lower drug prices through the pCPA. Patient groups were encouraged by Health Minister Philpott’s announcement that doing so will achieve greater savings for publicly funded drug programs, increased access to drug treatment options and improved consistency of pricing across Canada.

We are concerned, however, because to date these price negotiations have not in fact led to improved access to drugs for cancer patients, with some provinces paying for cancer drugs while others only pay for drugs administered in hospitals. The introduction of new life saving therapies will increase this inequity. No cancer patient in Canada should face bankruptcy or death because they cannot afford their cancer medications. If the Federal Government’s inclusion in pricing negotiations actually changes this situation, cancer groups welcome this improvement. Cancer patients have been forced to travel and move from one province to another to obtain access to the cancer medications they need.

To date pricing negotiations have not automatically led to public coverage in every province and territory. We call on all jurisdictions to add these drugs to their public plans immediately following completed negotiations. Only then will there in fact be equitable access for all Canadians.