The Bitterest Pill: Equal Access to Take-Home Cancer Drugs in Ontario

On April 4th, volunteers from the CanCertainty Coalition gathered on the lawn of Queen’s Park for their Bitterest Pill event. The event brought together advocates and patient groups to call for equitable and affordable access to take-home cancer drugs for cancer patients in Ontario. The CanCertainty Coalition – of which CCSN is a member – urges all who share this concern to sign their petition for the government to eliminate these inequities and put patients first.

In Ontario, patients under 65 who take cancer treatments at home – rather than in a hospital – are on the hook for making sure those treatments are paid for. That means maxing out any private insurance you have, waiting for weeks to enroll for public drug benefits, and paying a large insurance deductible out of your own pocket – enduring stress and uncertainty all the while. In many other provinces and territories, there is no such disparity between access to take-home and hospital-administered cancer treatments.

The cancer patients and advocates who took part in the event – more than 30 in all – met with more than 60 MPPs, ministers, and staffers. To learn about all the hoops patients have to jump through to get cancer treatments at home, MPPs and staffers jumped through 30 hula hoops, each representing one step in this complicated and lengthy process. At the end, they received a ‘bill’ for $4000, representing the deductible patients must pay to the government if their drugs are reimbursed through the Trillium Drug Program.

Visit the CanCertainty Coalition’s website to find out more about how Ontario’s policy for take-home cancer drugs creates hardships for patients and how you can help. The easiest way to get involved is to sign CanCertainty’s petition. You can also write to your MPP. Cancer patients have had enough delays – the time is now to fix this unfair system.

Photo credit: David Josephy