Nova Scotians Approves Two New Cancer Drugs

Armen Hareyan's picture

Two New Cancer Drugs

Nova Scotians will have access to two new cancer drugs, including one that will increase the cure rate of colorectal cancer after surgery.

"I know many Nova Scotians will be helped by these two drugs and, on the advice of the experts who treat cancer, I am supporting public funding starting Aug. 1," said Mr. d'Entremont.

In the month of June, the 23-member Cancer Systemic Therapy Policy Committee, which includes oncologists, pharmacists and cancer survivors, reviewed three drugs. The committee, which provides the Department of Health with advice on what cancer drugs should qualify for public funding has recommended funding for Oxaliplatin, a drug that treats colorectal cancer, and Mab Campath, a drug that treats chronic lymphocytic leukemia. The committee also recommended the province not publicly fund Avastin.


When taken with other cancer drugs, Oxaliplatin, can treat colorectal patients after surgery and prevent the disease from progressing. About 700 people in Nova Scotia develop colorectal cancer each year.

Based on the economics and new evidence they reviewed, Avastin does not offer the same potential as the new drug Oxaliplatin in early stages of cancer. The committee's mandate includes reviewing significant new evidence that comes forward.

"These are tough, difficult choices that have to be made, and I empathize with every person impacted by this," said Mr. d'Entremont. "There are no easy answers when it comes to health care funding but I thank the committee for its diligence in reviewing these drugs and helping us make our decisions."

To date, the committee has recommended the province fund five new cancer drugs including, Herceptin, Velcade, Rituxin, Oxaliplatin and Mab Campath, at an annual cost of about $7.5 million.

In 2006-07 the province invested $23 million in new cancer drugs for Nova Scotians. On average, the annual cost of drugs for treating cancer has increased by 22 per cent a year. The estimated cost to provide Avastin was about $3.6 million a year.

"Unfortunately, no government can afford to pay for every new drug that comes to market," said Mr. d'Entremont. "This is why we rely on the expertise of the committee that reviews evidence and economics within an ethical framework to decide which cancer drugs should be funded."