Report card says care for disease is unfair to many Canadians

Access to cancer drugs in Canada is a "postal code lottery" that significantly favours patients in some provinces over others, says a new cross-country report card on the disease.



As well, current drug testing protocols badly clog the pipeline for promising new medicines, while funding agencies favour studies on basic cancer biology over possible treatment improvements, according to studies by the Cancer Advocacy Coalition of Canada.



"The current Canadian system of managing cancer, from research to treatment through supportive care, is really outdated and outmoded," said Dr. James Gowing, chair of the coalition of cancer patients and doctors funded by the pharmaceutical industry.

As a consequence, cancer management "is very inconsistent across the country ... and really unfair to many Canadians depending on where they live," said the Cambridge, Ont., oncologist.

Dr. Kong Khoo, the coalition’s vice-chair, said funding for old and new cancer drugs is uneven across the country, with Ontario being one of the most stingy provinces.

For example, of 24 older drugs monitored by the coalition’s report card — now in its 10th year — B.C. fully funds 20. Ontario, meanwhile, has approved just six. As for the 18 new medications researched in this report, B.C. has agreed to fund 12 while this province pays the full freight for just three.

"This is like a postal code lottery — where you live will determine what is provided for your cancer," said Khoo, a B.C. oncologist.

Ontario ‘less generous’

  • Terrence Sullivan, president and CEO of Cancer Care Ontario, acknowledged this province is less generous on the number of drugs it funds than others, especially British Columbia.