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.