New provincial program covers the cost of cancer treatment and support drugs

19 April 2012

Winnipeg, Manitoba -

The Canadian Cancer Society Manitoba Division today applauded the introduction of the Home Cancer Drug Program that will benefit nearly 4,000 cancer patients by covering the full cost of cancer treatment drugs taken at home and support drugs that patients need during treatment.

“This announcement will have a profound impact on Manitoba families battling cancer in every corner of this province,” said Mark McDonald, Executive Director of the Canadian Cancer Society Manitoba Division. “There are cancer patients in Flin Flon, Brandon, Teulon, Steinbach and Winnipeg who will no longer have to choose between their health and their family’s financial well being.”

Until now, Manitoba only covered the full cost of cancer treatments when they were administered in a hospital setting. Manitobans who were able to self-administer treatments at home had to pay for them through the provincial Pharmacare program which carries an incomebased annual deductible.

Approximately three-quarters of new cancer drugs are administered in an oral or pill form. The average cost per treatment is about $65,000. This means that a cancer patient may face drug costs of up to $13,000 during this period plus additional expenses for support drugs to reduce pain and nausea.

Depending on when a cancer patient begins treatment and its duration, cancer patients sometimes have to pay more than one Pharmacare deductible in a calendar year. In the case of one Flin Flon family this year, these costs would have totalled $42,000.

Starting today, the Manitoba Home Cancer Drug Program will cover 100% of the approved cancer treatment and support drug costs. Cancer patients will enrol in the program through Pharmacare and all deductible payments will be waived.

“The Home Cancer Drug Program allows cancer patients to focus their energy on beating cancer rather than worrying about drug costs and putting a financial burden on their family,” McDonald said. Manitoba and Saskatchewan are the only two provinces in Canada to cover the full cost of oral cancer treatment and support drugs taken outside the hospital.

“This program puts Manitoba into a leadership position,” said cancer patient Michael Geiger- Wolf. “Now people like me have an option. We can refuse to let cancer sideline us in hospitals, keep us from our families and living our lives.”

Geiger-Wolf, who also sits as a volunteer member of the Canadian Cancer Society, Manitoba Division board, was diagnosed with Stage IV non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2003 and beat it. Today, the cancer has returned, but because of careful monitoring it was detected early and he is resolute that he will beat it again.

He called the new program a potential game changer because it allows people to reduce hospital visits, stay close to family and friends and receive treatment at home and in their community. Until now, the challenge with oral treatment drugs has been the cost. In Geiger-Wolf’s case, he said it would have cost his family $20,000 in Pharmacare deductibles.

“It means that Winnipeg and hospitals are not the only battle ground for fighting cancer in Manitoba,” he said. “People in rural Manitoba can also fight cancer at home now.”

As Manitoba’s voice for cancer patients, the Cancer Society has been calling for the cost of treatment and support drugs taken at home to be covered for about two years. Last summer, the Society asked Manitobans to get involved in the fight to help cancer patients. More than 13,000 people from across the province signed petition letters in support of three cancer priorities including drug coverage. A survey of 810 Manitobans completed by Prairie Research Associates found 91% supported making oral cancer drugs available to all Manitobans at no cost.

“This is a case where we can say that the voice of cancer patients was heard and that by working together we created change for the better,’’ McDonald said.

This year, an estimated 6,100 Manitobans will be newly diagnosed with cancer and 2,750 will lose their battle with this devastating disease.

The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website www.cancer.ca or call our toll-free, bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.

For more information, please contact:

Jason Permanand

Communications Manager

Canadian Cancer Society

Manitoba

Phone: 204-990-4310