Health Ministers’ Meeting: Cancer Groups Support Improved Access for Cancer Patients Falling Between the Cracks

OTTAWA, January 20th, 2016 – Leading Canadian cancer groups, the Canadian Cancer Survivor Network (CCSN), Save Your Skin Foundation (SYSF), Life Saving Therapies Network (LSTN), Anal Cancer – A Bum Rap, Hair Donation Ottawa, Canadian CML Network, and GIST Sarcoma Life Raft Group Canada, have banded together to support the federal, provincial, and territorial Health Ministers as they meet in Vancouver this week to craft a new Health Accord that affirms high-quality, compassionate, and effective care for Canadian patients. 

We are pleased to see the federal government join its provincial and territorial counterparts in developing sustainable solutions for those Canadians who are not well served under the current system, specifically those who are falling through the cracks because they cannot afford prescription drugs or do not have access to services that would allow them to remain in their homes. 

Canadians Most at Need

We believe that funds must be targeted to Canadians who need them to ensure they have adequate and equal access. Many Canadians already have this, while others do not. “We support the Prime Minister’s vision of placing priority on providing more direct support to patients who need it but we need a clear understanding of who the people in need really are,” said Jackie Manthorne, president and co-founder of CCSN. “We appreciate that increasing health care spending year-over-year, on its own, is simply not a sustainable or long-term solution, and that reallocation of health resources to fill the gaps, and to focus on results, is an effective, equitable strategy,” she added.  “We are aligned with Minister Philpott and agree it is about using funds wisely and about capitalizing on innovation and new ways of delivering care.”

The provinces and territories have created a very effective mechanism in the Pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance (pCPA) to ensure that savings in drug prices are directed to those who need them the most.  As of March 2015, pCPA reported savings of $490 million annually in the cost of drugs for those on public drug plans.  These plans serve Canada’s most vulnerable citizens.  


Why Does it Matter?

Cancer is a terrible burden on the health care system. It is the leading cause of death in Canada and is responsible for 30% of all deaths. The good news is that the death rate for all cancers combined has fallen since the 1990s because of improved prevention strategies, particularly incidences of lung cancer due to the reduction in smoking, as well as from improved detection and treatment of other forms of cancers. For example, the 5-year survival rate for testicular cancer is 97%; 86% for breast cancer, and 92% for prostate cancer.  In each case, improvements in survival come about through continuous innovation, each step building on another.

“The gains we are making are everything to the patients, and their families, in their fight against cancer. But any gains that are made only matter for those who can access treatment,” said John-Peter Bradford, executive director of LSTN. “Nine out of 10 Canadian families battling cancer are also battling financial debt and 91% of cancer patients in Canada will suffer a loss of income or a rise in expenses. This adds to the gaps in access to cancer treatment throughout Canada that exist depending on where you live, whether you have drug coverage or not, and the levels of patient copay and deductibles. Together, we need to begin to change this.” 

“We applaud the federal government for wanting to work closer with the provinces and territories, and essential stakeholders. The Health Ministers can count on the support of our organizations to partner with them to develop a new Health Accord that: recognizes the gaps in cancer drug access; helps to better manage drug budgets to ensure long-term sustainability; and improves patient outcomes right across the country,” said Kathleen Barnard, President of SYSF.

For more information contact Jackie Manthorne at 613.710.3636 or Louise Binder at 416.457.3179.



CCSN works to connect patients, survivors and other stakeholder groups with decision makers and the wider community to engage in discussion and to act on evidence-based best practices to alleviate the medical, emotional, financial and social costs of cancer and encourage research on ways to overcome barriers to optimal cancer care and follow-up for survivors in Canada.


The Save Your Skin Foundation is a national not-for profit organization dedicated to the areas of skin cancer and skin disease with a focus on education and awareness, supporting research and ensuring equal and timely access to treatment for all Canadians. Please visit for more information.


The Life Saving Therapies Network (LSTN) was created to address the urgent need to create fast and efficient access to treatments for lethal diseases, particularly for late stage cancers. LSTN’s goal to provide thought leadership and educational resources for:

§  Creating progress-centered regulations for the development and approval of treatment for lethal diseases – and an efficient bureaucracy to support them

§  Reforming of clinical research protocols to permit faster, less expensive access to new therapies for lethal diseases

§  Creating faster patient access by streamlining the funding process for therapies for lethal diseases and facilitating timely payer reimbursement for effective treatments for lethal diseases on a nationwide basis.

§  Producing a practical road map for achieving these changes. 


A Bum Rap is an Ottawa, Canada based support group for past & present anal cancer patients & their families.

We will be providing whatever support, encouragement & advice we can to anal cancer patients from their initial diagnosis, through their treatment and then their life after treatment.


Hair Donation Ottawa is an annual, non-profit, cancer research fundraiser where people raise pledges for donating their hair and/or shaving their heads & they receive a wash, cut and style or shave. Participating hair stylists from various Ottawa & area salons, as well as teaching staff and students from the Algonquin College Hair Stylist program, volunteer their time for this cause.


The Canadian CML Network is dedicated to providing educational and social support to people living with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia and those who care about them.


The objectives of GIST Sarcoma Life Raft Group Canada are to:
    1. Increase awareness of GIST among the general public & among health care professionals.
    2. Provide workshops and seminars related to GIST & its treatment.
    3. Advocate for access to medical treatment for GIST patients across Canada.
    4. Establish support groups for those in Canada who are affected by GIST.
    5. Support, within Canada, activities of research, scholarship, publication & education related to GIST.