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