Canadian Lung Cancer Groups Call for Speedy Public Funding of New Therapies

Canadian Lung Cancer Groups Call for Speedy Public Funding of New Therapies

Two Canadian lung cancer organizations have asked provincial government officials and the pharmaceutical industry to expedite negotiations that lead to the public funding of several new Health Canada-approved treatments.

Lung Cancer Canada and the Canadian Cancer Survivor Network said in a news release that they want the speed-up so patients who urgently need the immunotherapies can get them. In Canada, the provinces and not the national government decides which therapies will be publicly funded.

“We urge all parties to be respectful of the negative effect delayed negotiations can have on lung cancer patients — especially since this is a cancer with a high unmet need,” the two organizations said in the press release. “The time for rapid negotiation for coverage under the individual provincial health plans is now.”

The treatments are Tagrisso (osimertinib), Keytruda (pembrolizumab), Zykadia (ceritinib) and the combo Tafinlar (dabrafenib) and Mekinist (trametinib). All can slow progression of lung cancer and prolong patients’ lives, clinical trials have shown.

Lung Cancer Canada said many people are in desperate need of the treatments. Ninety percent of Canadian lung cancer patients have a form of the disease known as non-small cell lung cancer. Less than 17 percent will live more than five years with current treatments, it said.

The Canadian Cancer Survivor Network said Canadian lung cancer patients wait considerably longer than Americans for new drugs to receive regulatory approval. A recent Lung Cancer Canada study showed that it took Health Canada an average of 440 days longer to approve eight lung cancer treatments that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

After Health Canada approves the drugs, each Canadian province must decide whether to authorize their public funding under the country’s national health insurance program. That process can take up to two years.

About 26,600 Canadians will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year, and more than 20,000 will die, according to Lung Cancer Canada estimates.

The organization and the survivor network are asking Canadians to prod provincial officials to add the treatments to their list of publicly funded drugs as soon as possible.

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