WINNIPEG – “Tell me your postal code and I will tell you your chances of surviving cancer,” says Dr. William Hryniuk, past chair of Cancer Advocacy Coalition of Canada (CCAC) and former director of cancer centres in the Canada and US.
Access to cancer drugs remains highly variable across the country but Filipinos living in Manitoba will be happy to know that Manitoba and other western provinces continue to lead the pack in providing new cancer drugs to their citizens.
According to the CCAC’s recently released 2007 Report Card on Cancer in Canada, what Canadians pay for cancer has increased across the provinces. At the same time, provincial coverage of key cancer drugs is spotty, with some provinces covering the medications and others refusing to do so. For example Ontario funds the lowest number of 42 cancer drugs studied in the report while BC funds the greatest number. Manitoba ranks second.
The CACC’s Report Card is the country’s only independent evaluation of the cancer system’s performance. This year’s report card highlights the lack of funding for prevention research, the need to refine the clinical trials system, the need to enhance the role of nursing in supportive care, and the need for greater utilization of technological innovations in cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Take the example of Herceptin, a very expensive breast cancer-fighting drug. In May 2005, clinical trial results suggested Herceptin (Trastuzumab) in addition to traditional chemotherapy could prevent recurrences of breast cancer and improve overall survival rates from the disease.
This drug costs $40,000 a year per patient depending on weight, and not all provinces in Canada would pay for this drug. But here in Manitoba, it is offered for free.