According to 2017 Canadian Cancer Society statistics, almost half of all Canadians will develop cancer in their lifetime. Cancer remains the leading cause of death in Canada, responsible for 30.2% of lives lost nation-wide. Advances in the molecular characterization of many cancers have led to a subdivision of these cancers into several molecular sub-types, resulting in a complex collection of diseases. It has become increasingly clear not only that no two patients’ cancer is the same, but even within one person’s disease there is a large amount of heterogeneity.
Many Canadians are surprised to learn that a drug’s approval for sale by Health Canada doesn’t equate to access to these often lifesaving therapies. For cancer patients, time is valuable and access to effective therapies is critical. While advances in screening, detection and treatment have improved outcomes, an estimated 80,800 Canadians are expected to die of cancer in 2017.
This white paper argues that there is a gap in access to innovative new cancer drug therapies, effectively denying or delaying potentially life-saving treatment for many cancer patients in Canada. This is unethical and unnecessary. We recognize that affordability and appropriate prescribing are crucial along with accessibility. They are not mutually exclusive. The pan-Canadian Oncology Drug Review (pCODR) in partnership with the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance (pCPA) must develop solutions to more effectively deal with uncertainty, beyond a negative recommendation.
We propose that new mechanisms that accelerate access to promising new cancer therapies are not only timely but essential—providing seriously ill patients with effective, safe treatment choices in a timely manner to improve quality of life and increase survival.