October 08, 2014

CanCertainty Coalition calling for fair and equal access to take-home cancer therapies in Newfoundland and Labrador

Despite the highest cancer incidence and mortality rates in the country, Atlantic Canadians face uncertainty and financial hardship accessing medications taken outside of the hospital

New survey shows Newfoundlanders and Labradorians want greater and equal access to take-home treatments

St. John’s, NF – October 8, 2014 – The CanCertainty Coalition, an unprecedented unification of 35 cancer patient groups, physicians and health care charities from the Atlantic Provinces and the rest of Canada, is calling for fair and equal access to cancer therapies taken at home. Currently, when a cancer patient in Newfoundland and Labrador needs a take-home therapy (such as an oral tablet or injectable), their age, private insurance status and income level can result in significant delays in treatment and often unaffordable out-of-pocket costs.  In contrast, the same patient would access an intravenous (IV) treatment in a hospital at no cost and no wait-time, regardless of their income or private insurance status. A new survey of residents in Atlantic Canada reveals that more than 80 per cent believe IV and cancer drugs taken orally should be funded equally in their province, and close to 90 per cent believe the wait-time should not exceed two weeks.1 

“When it comes to funding approved cancer therapies – a clear line needs to be drawn. For patients prescribed an IV treatment, their treatment is fully funded, no questions asked, but those requiring a take-home medication are on their own, unfortunately,” says Geoff Eaton, Executive Director and Founder of Young Adults Cancer Canada.  “It is critical that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have certainty that if cancer strikes them or their loved one, they will have fair and equal access to the treatment they need – whether IV or oral.”

Cancer is Not Fair, But Accessing Treatments Should Be

In Atlantic Canada only about three in 10 residents have private insurance coverage2 – one of the lowest rates in the country. Many residents are self-employed, with little to no health insurance coverage.

Of those with private coverage, many plans require significant co-payments and/or cover a limited number of prescription drugs per year. NLPD Assurance Plan, the provincial prescription drug program, provides some financial assistance, but patients must disclose their gross taxable family income and fill out a lot of paper work to determine their deductible, which for many families is still unaffordable. In addition, without adequate private insurance, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians face significant time delays in starting treatment, up to six weeks or more. Meanwhile, patients on an IV treatment do not face these barriers.

Historically, cancer care consisted of intravenous and radiation therapy. Today, more than one third of cancer treatments are oral medications, and 60 per cent of new cancer treatments under development are oral medications.3

“When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer six years ago, my treatment journey involved surgery and then radiation, but I could have just as easily been prescribed an oral treatment,” says Tolson Chapman of St. John’s. “It is completely absurd to have to pay for one and not the other – if I had been prescribed an oral medication it would have been thousands of dollars a month out of my own pocket simply because of the type of treatment I needed. That’s just unfair.”

The Way Forward

A Report from the Cameron Institute which examines the issue highlights benefits to universal funding of cancer medications taken orally which include4:

  • Financial savings to the healthcare system overall. Cancer treatments taken orally are cost effective because patients take them at home, rather than in a hospital-setting;
  • Improved quality of life for cancer patients, their families and compassionate caregivers;
  • Stronger purchaser negotiating positions for the procurement of new prescription drugs;
  • Better more meaningful data for clinical, outcomes and systems researchers;
  • Quicker access for patients to life-saving therapy with better outcomes – the elimination of wait times for cancer drugs taken at home – both oral and injectable medications.

About Cancer in Newfoundland and Labrador

Cancer is expected to have the fastest growing prevalence of any non-communicable disease in Canada between 2003 and 2023.5 Atlantic Canada has the highest cancer incidence rate in the country, with an estimated 3,400 new cases in Newfoundland and Labrador this year.6 Similar to the incidence rate, the mortality rate for all cancers combined is highest in the Atlantic Provinces, with an estimated 1,500 Newfoundlanders and Labradorians expected to die of the disease this year.7

About the CanCertainty Coalition

The CanCertainty Coalition is the united voice of 35 Canadian patient groups, cancer health charities, and caregiver organizations from Atlantic Canada and the rest of the country, joining together to significantly improve the affordability and accessibility of cancer treatment in Atlantic Canada.

The Coalition is comprised of the following patient groups: 

  • Aplastic Anemia and Myelodysplasia Association of Canada (AAMAC)
  • Best Medicines Coalition
  • Bladder Cancer Canada
  • Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada
  • Breast Cancer Action Nova Scotia
  • Canadian Breast Cancer Network
  • Canadian Cancer Action Network
  • Canadian Liver Foundation
  • Canadian Skin Cancer Foundation
  • Canadian Skin Patient Alliance
  • Cancer Advocacy Coalition of Canada
  • Cancer Fight Club
  • Carcinoid Neuroendocrine Tumour Society of Canada
  • Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia Society of Canada (CML Society)
  • CLL Patient Advocacy Group
  • Colon Cancer Canada
  • Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada
  • Gastrointestinal Society
  • GIST Sarcoma Life Raft Group Canada
  • Hope and Cope
  • Kidney Cancer Canada
  • Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada
  • Lung Cancer Canada
  • Lymphoma Canada
  • Melanoma Network of Canada
  • Myeloma Canada
  • Ovarian Cancer Canada
  • Pancreatic Cancer Canada
  • Prostate Cancer Canada
  • Rethink Breast Cancer
  • Save your Skin
  • Testicular Cancer Canada
  • The Canadian CML Network
  • Thyroid Cancer Canada
  • Young Adult Cancer Canada

The campaign is also supported by the Physician Alliance for Cancer Care and Treatment (PACCT).

For more information, visit www.CanCertaintyForAll.ca.

About Kidney Cancer Canada
Kidney Cancer Canada is the first Canadian-based, patient-led registered charity established to improve the quality of life for patients and their families living with kidney cancer. Kidney Cancer Canada advocates for access to new treatments, provides support and information to patients, and works to increase awareness of kidney cancer as a significant health issue. During National Kidney Month (March 2014), Kidney Cancer Canada raised awareness of the need for fair and equal access to cancer medications taken orally. Thirty-four other cancer patient organizations have joined the CanCertainty campaign and coalition to bring attention to this issue and work together towards a solution for all Canadian cancer patients.

For more information, please visit: www.kidneycancercanada.ca.

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For more information, or to book an interview, please contact:
Jaclyn Crawford / Dustin Hamilton
Environics Communications
416-969-2728 / 416-969-2664
[email protected] / [email protected]



1 IVR Atlantic Canada Poll
2 Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association, Facts and Figures 2012
3 Cancer Care Ontario. (2013). Drug funding in Ontario: ensuring equitable access for all patients. Retrieved from at http://www.cqco.ca/common/pages/UserFile.aspx?fileId=291365 (Last accessed February 14, 2014)
4 Taylor, W. D. (2014). The Institutionalized Discrimination of Cancer Patients – Not What Tommy Douglas Intended: A Business Case for Universal Coverage of Oral Cancer Medicines in Ontario and Atlantic Canada.
5 Cancer Statistics at a Glance. Retrieved from http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-101/cancer-statistics-at-a-glance/?region=on (Last accessed February 14, 2014)
6 Canadian Cancer Society’s Advisory Committee on Cancer Statistics. Canadian Cancer Statistics 2014. Toronto, ON: Canadian Cancer Society; 2014
7 Ibid

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