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May 9, 2014
For immediate release

New cancer drugs funded

Health and Wellness

Islanders living with cancer have better access to affordable drugs as nine new cancer medications are now being funded through public drug programs as a result of work to modernize the provincial drug programs, such as lowering the cost of generic drugs, says Health and Wellness Minister Doug Currie.

“Ensuring Islanders have access to the medications they need will help reduce the burden of cancer and allow patients to focus more on their recovery,” said the minister. “Making medications more affordable and accessible is a priority for our government, whether it’s through reducing the cost of generic drugs or expanding drug coverage through our publicly funded programs.”

Five drugs are being made available through the High Cost Drug Program and the Catastrophic Drug Program. Four additional drugs are now available through the Hospital Drug Program.

“We are very pleased that Islanders will now have access to these important medications. With the addition of these new drugs, it is clear that the Department of Health and Wellness recognizes the financial pressures faced by cancer patients and their families,” said Lori Barker, Executive Director of the Canadian Cancer Society, PEI Division. “We remain optimistic that these formularies will continue to be expanded upon in the months and years to come.”

The additional cost of the nine drugs is approximately $715,000. This investment will be realized as a result of the savings found through modernizing the public drug program, such as reducing the price of generic drugs.

“Health PEI and the Department are developing a process that allows for expensive medications to be reviewed by a Drugs and Therapeutic Committee and added to the list of publicly funded drugs in a timely fashion,” said Dr. Philip Champion, medical director of the PEI Cancer Treatment Centre.

Since 2006-2007, spending on Pharmacare programs has increased by more than 40 per cent, and government has added or expanded coverage of 212 medications to the list of drugs available through provincial drug programs.

“Islanders are all too familiar with the burden of cancer,” said the minister. “That’s why the Department of Health and Wellness and Health PEI have recently made important progress in providing cancer services and care to Islanders.”

A new provincial Cancer Coordination Steering Committee will soon finalize a three-year continuation of the existing cancer strategy for Prince Edward Island. This strategy will complement the investments made in cancer care, such as the PEI Cancer Treatment Centre, enhanced screening programs, new positions such as the Provincial Cancer Coordinator, and an increased focus on preventative measures, including restrictions to tanning bed use.

BACKGROUNDER

Additions to the High Cost and Catastrophic Drug Programs include:

Leukemia:

• Vesanoid (Tretinoin, ATRA)

• Tasigna (Nilotinib)

Lung cancer:

• Xalkori (Crizotinib)

Brain tumors:

• Temodal (Temozolomide) (This medication was already covered through the Catastrophic Drug Program but it has now been added to the High Cost Drug Program.)

Supportive treatment for cancer patients:

• Neupogen (Filgrastim)

Note: Patients must meet clinical criteria to be eligible for each of the above drugs

Additions to the Hospital Formulary include:

Leukemia:

• Trisenox (Arsenic Trioxide)

Skin cancer:

• Yervoy (Ipilimumab)

Lymphoma:

• Treanda (Bendamustine) – Two indications

Note: Patients must meet clinical criteria to be eligible for each of the above drugs

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Media Contact: Mary Moszynski
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