Nova Scotia To Begin Funding Cancer Drug

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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Eligible Nova Scotians suffering from metastatic colorectal cancer will now have the drug Avastin publicly funded.

"I know the public funding of Avastin will come as a great relief to those Nova Scotians who want the drug for the treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer," Health Minister Chris d'Entremont announced today, Aug. 15. "By funding Avastin, we are offering people another option for coping with this cancer."

Government announced its decision to fund Avastin in the 2008-09 budget in April. Since that time, department staff, oncologists and cancer centres have been working on clinical criteria, funding processes and drug administration procedures.

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Avastin funding will be phased-in for people who meet eligibility criteria developed by experts in metastatic colorectal cancer. Patients will be assessed for eligibility by their oncologists.

Most cancer is treated in steps, using a group of drugs. The first step is first-line treatment. If it is determined that the first group of drugs is not working optimally, the drug combination is changed for second-line and subsequent lines of treatment. Through established criteria, the drug will be funded for the first or second line of treatment.

The funding of Avastin is just one government initiative to address the incidence and impact of colorectal cancer in Nova Scotia. This year, the Department of Health committed $300,000 to develop a colorectal screening program for Nova Scotia. Being led by Cancer Care Nova Scotia, the population-based cancer screening program will test people ages 50 to 74 every two years for small amounts of blood in stool.

Avastin is one of many new cancer drugs and costs about $35,000 per patient per year. The funding will be phased-in until October.

Nova Scotia is the sixth province to fund the drug. British Columbia, Newfoundland, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Ontario also cover the cost.

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