Provincial drug plans adding new lymphoma treatment is good news for patients, but other promising cancer therapies still awaiting green light

Video: Non-Hodgkin lymphoma patients Peter Wright and Carmen Skinner discuss the importance of timely access to new lymphoma treatments

Video: Lymphoma patient explains why patients need access to treatments now

Video: Lymphoma patient describes how treatment choice gives her hope

Faster approvals needed for coverage by provincial drug plans: Lymphoma Foundation Canada

TORONTO, April 24, 2013 /CNW/ - The recent approval by Health Canada of a highly effective new treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma and the subsequent decision by several provinces to cover the cost for cancer patients is very good news, says Lymphoma Foundation Canada (LFC).  However, the organization says more must be done to speed up the coverage by provincial drug plans for a host of promising new treatment options.

In April, Treanda® (bendamustine) was listed on provincial formularies in western provinces, and is expected to be listed on formularies in Ontario and the Atlantic provinces very shortly. In combination with rituximab, Treanda has been found to be twice as effective and better tolerated versus previous treatments for indolent non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

"The drugs are available. They're Health Canada approved. But without provincial coverage, they're like high performance cars with no keys," said Sue Robson, LFC Executive Director.

Carmen Skinner, who has non-Hodgkin lymphoma, had access to Treanda through a clinical trial and recognizes the importance of having access to a variety of treatment options.

"What it means to me to have drugs available is that when I go into remission I can enjoy my life, enjoy my new grandchild, enjoy my daughter's wedding and know that when I relapse there will be drugs available specific to my cancer, specific to my needs," Skinner said.

But other patients are still waiting for access. Robson points to Adcetris® (brentuximab vedotin), an antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) that has produced significant results in people suffering from Hodgkin lymphoma. It was approved for use by Health Canada on February 1, but it can take eight months or longer for provinces to add such new treatments to their formularies.

"The issue is the time it still takes to get these new treatments covered by provincial health plans," said Robson. "It's time that some patients simply don't have," she said, noting that waits in Ontario are consistently among the longest.

Other provinces such as BC have bridging systems in place to fill the gap between Health Canada approval and provincial reimbursement.

"The BC Cancer Agency has a standard process for oncologists to request funding for drugs that are approved by Health Canada but are not on our standard formulary," said Dr. Joseph M. Connors, Clinical Director of the BC Cancer Agency Centre for Lymphoid Cancer. Patients who are approved receive treatment within 24 hours.

"If some provincial hospitals or cancer centres, while awaiting reimbursement, can offer a compassionate access program on a drug-by-drug, patient-by-patient basis within 24 hours, then why is this not the solution for all Canadians no matter what province they live in?" asked Robson.

Robson says that these issues will become more frequent as promising new lymphoma and other cancer treatments gain approval in Canada.

"Some people will die waiting.  It's unfortunately just that black and white," she added.

Lymphoma in Canada
Lymphoma is the fifth most common cancer in Canada. In 2012, an estimated 8,700 Canadians were diagnosed with lymphoma. It affects men, women and children and incidence is on the rise in young adults and children. Lymphoma is a type of blood cancer that develops when an error in the production of lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell found in the lymph nodes, results in abnormal cells that become cancerous.

About Lymphoma Foundation Canada
Lymphoma Foundation Canada is the only Canadian organization dedicated exclusively to the lymphoma community. Their goals are to provide education and support for individuals with lymphoma across Canada and their support network, to fund medical research to find a cure for lymphatic cancer, to advocate for the best treatment and care for lymphoma patients.

Video with caption: "Video: Non-Hodgkin lymphoma patients Peter Wright and Carmen Skinner discuss the importance of timely access to new lymphoma treatments ". Video available at: http://stream1.newswire.ca/cgi-bin/playback.cgi?file=20130424_C7757_VIDEO_EN_25887.mp4&posterurl=http://photos.newswire.ca/images/20130424_C7757_PHOTO_EN_25887.jpg&clientName=Lymphoma%20Foundation%20Canada&caption=Video%3A%20Non%2DHodgkin%20lymphoma%20patients%20Peter%20Wright%20and%20Carmen%20Skinner%0D%0Adiscuss%20the%20importance%20of%20timely%20access%20to%20new%20lymphoma%20treatments%0D%0A&title=LYMPHOMA%20FOUNDATION%20CANADA%20%2D%20Provincial%20drug%20plans%20adding%20new%20lymphoma%20treatment%20is%20good%20news%20for%20patients%2C%20but%20other%20promising%20cancer%20therapies%20still%20awaiting%20green%20light&headline=Provincial%20drug%20plans%20adding%20new%20lymphoma%20treatment%20is%20good%20news%20for%20patients%2C%20but%20other%20promising%20cancer%20therapies%20still%20awaiting%20green%20light

Video with caption: "Video: Lymphoma patient explains why patients need access to treatments now". Video available at: http://stream1.newswire.ca/cgi-bin/playback.cgi?file=20130424_C7757_VIDEO_EN_25888.mp4&posterurl=http://photos.newswire.ca/images/20130424_C7757_PHOTO_EN_25888.jpg&clientName=Lymphoma%20Foundation%20Canada&caption=Video%3A%20Lymphoma%20patient%20explains%20why%20patients%20need%20access%20to%20treatments%20now&title=LYMPHOMA%20FOUNDATION%20CANADA%20%2D%20Provincial%20drug%20plans%20adding%20new%20lymphoma%20treatment%20is%20good%20news%20for%20patients%2C%20but%20other%20promising%20cancer%20therapies%20still%20awaiting%20green%20light&headline=Provincial%20drug%20plans%20adding%20new%20lymphoma%20treatment%20is%20good%20news%20for%20patients%2C%20but%20other%20promising%20cancer%20therapies%20still%20awaiting%20green%20light

Video with caption: "Video: Lymphoma patient describes how treatment choice gives her hope ". Video available at: http://stream1.newswire.ca/cgi-bin/playback.cgi?file=20130424_C7757_VIDEO_EN_25889.mp4&posterurl=http://photos.newswire.ca/images/20130424_C7757_PHOTO_EN_25889.jpg&clientName=Lymphoma%20Foundation%20Canada&caption=Video%3A%20Lymphoma%20patient%20describes%20how%20treatment%20choice%20gives%20her%20hope%0D%0A&title=LYMPHOMA%20FOUNDATION%20CANADA%20%2D%20Provincial%20drug%20plans%20adding%20new%20lymphoma%20treatment%20is%20good%20news%20for%20patients%2C%20but%20other%20promising%20cancer%20therapies%20still%20awaiting%20green%20light&headline=Provincial%20drug%20plans%20adding%20new%20lymphoma%20treatment%20is%20good%20news%20for%20patients%2C%20but%20other%20promising%20cancer%20therapies%20still%20awaiting%20green%20light

SOURCE: Lymphoma Foundation Canada

For further information:

Savannah Bellows
Veritas Communications
416-847-2115
bellows@veritasinc.com