Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month: Access To Cancer Drugs In Canada
Treatment Options Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month is upon us and once again our attention is immediately drawn to the importance of colorectal cancer screening.
Colorectal screening is a simple way to avoid a most preventable disease through simple tests that bear acronyms such as FOBT and FIT, and ultimately the gold standard colonoscopy.
In addition to screening, there are other movements to increase awareness around prevention. Canadian associations are reaching the public to educate them in a fun and interactive manner through events such as the Giant Colon Tour, where a 40 foot long colon displays the various pathologies that can be found inside the human Colorectum. Each province may also run their own campaigns to promote their provincial population based screening programs. But what about those of us who already have cancer?
This year there will be over 24, 400 men and women in Canada diagnosed with colorectal cancer. That’s 1 in 13 men and 1 in 16 women, if you’re into statistics. Many will be cured due to an early diagnosis because of timely screening, but some of course will already have advanced stage disease and will require extensive treatments. Many will survive, but incredibly over 9,300 will die from the disease this year, even if they are lucky enough to receive all of the approved therapies. Gaining access to cancer drugs in
Canada is a complicated process.
In Canada, once Health Canada has approved a drug for its safety, efficacy and quality, each province then determines which cancer drugs are reimbursed if they receive a positive funding recommendation from either the pan-Canadian Oncology Drug Review (“pCODR” ) for all provinces other than Quebec, or the Institut national d’excellence en santé et en services sociaux (“INESSS”) for Quebec.
"This year there will be over 24, 400 men and women in Canada diagnosed with colorectal cancer. That’s 1 in 13 men and 1 in 16 women, if you’re into statistics. "
Most Canadians are not familiar with the drug approval process, but to cancer patients the health technology assessment (“HTA”) bodies that evaluate cancer drugs are of the utmost importance, since they determine what drugs patients will ultimately gain access to for their treatment.
The pCODR expert committee considers research data and the cost of the proposed new cancer drugs under review. They also provide the opportunity for accredited patient groups to provide input into the process. Patient groups can provide information on what patients and their caregiver’s value or see as a benefit both from existing treatments and from the new drug being assessed in order for the expert committee to better appreciate the quality of the proposed new drug.
The determination of what patients value is essential to this process, but they are often ill defined, inadequately measured and may not be given sufficient weight in the final decision making process. Some amazing work has already been done by patient groups and they will increasingly have an impact on which cancer drugs are approved and reimbursed in Canada.
Supporting patients to find effective treatments to improve outcomes is one of our hallmarks. While not as sexy as some of our other initiatives, in many ways it is more important, especially when it comes to drug access for those with advanced cancer.
Since patient values go to the heart of quality of care, the CCAC is embarking on a study to better define, measure and weigh patient values with the goal of increasing consistency and objectivity in patient group input to pCODR and INESSS, ensuring that Canadian cancer patients get the effective cancer drugs they truly value.