Can­cer care ad­vo­cates wel­come sup­port for pa­tients on take-home meds

The Amherst News - - NOVA SCOTIA BUDGET - By Fram Din­shaw SaltWire Net­work

HAL­I­FAX – Can­cer care ad­vo­cates are cel­e­brat­ing af­ter Stephen McNeil’s Lib­er­als promised fi­nan­cial help in their fall bud­get Tues­day for pa­tients who strug­gle to af­ford take-home med­i­ca­tion.

The gov­ern­ment is giv­ing can­cer pa­tients a cash in­jec­tion of $846,000, along with an­other $2 mil­lion per year for the next two years, un­der a new prov­ince-wide take-home ther­a­pies pro­gram.

“It makes us feel that af­ter three years we’ve fi­nally been lis­tened to. It has taken thou­sands of Nova Sco­tians to sign pe­ti­tions, to meet with the min­is­ter, to go on the me­dia and the truth is that some of these peo­ple are no longer alive to hear this an­nounce­ment and that is bit­ter­sweet,” said Deb Maskens, co-chair of the CanCer­tainty Coali­tion.

Be­fore Tues­day’s an­nounce­ment, Nova Sco­tian can­cer pa­tients faced the high­est outof-pocket costs in Canada for take-home med­i­ca­tion, as well as sig­nif­i­cant ad­min­is­tra­tive de­lays in start­ing life-sav­ing treat­ments.

That’s be­cause Nova Sco­tia only funded in-hospi­tal can­cer treat­ments such as IV chemo­ther­apy, but many newer medicines in­tro­duced over the last decade are taken as pills or in­jec­tions at home. These were not cov­ered by the prov­ince.

Such treat­ments could cost can­cer pa­tients thou­sands of dol­lars a year, even if they had health in­sur­ance.

Even with the prov­ince’s new sup­port plan, CanCer­tainty says that Nova Sco­tian can­cer pa­tients are nowhere near those in western prov­inces like Bri­tish Columbia, where peo­ple pay noth­ing for treat­ment.

“Ef­fec­tively what Nova Sco­tia has just done is catch up to the back of the pack,” said Maskens.

Her or­ga­ni­za­tion says that one in two Cana­di­ans will face a can­cer di­ag­no­sis in their life­time and Nova Sco­tia has the sec­ond high­est rate of can­cer mor­tal­ity when com­pared to other prov­inces.

“Cov­er­ing co-pays and de­ductibles will cer­tainly go a very long way to help­ing these pa­tients and get­ting our prov­ince closer to the way these pa­tients are cov­ered in the western prov­inces,” said Dr. Bruce Col­well, an on­col­o­gist at the QEII who met then-Min­is­ter of Health Leo Glavine last year, in a re­lease Wed­nes­day.

In April, the CanCer­tainty Coali­tion pre­sented a health econ­o­mist’s bud­get im­pact anal­y­sis that in­di­cated the fund­ing gap for take-home med­i­ca­tions could be closed with an in­vest­ment of $1.8 mil­lion.

The CanCer­tainty Coali­tion is a na­tion­wide or­ga­ni­za­tion of 35 Cana­dian pa­tient groups, can­cer health char­i­ties and care­giver or­ga­ni­za­tions from across the coun­try, joined by on­col­o­gists and can­cer care pro­fes­sion­als.

Its main goal is mak­ing take­home can­cer treat­ments af­ford­able and ac­ces­si­ble to all.

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