Kidney Cancer Canada challenges Ontario to fund breakthrough treatments
TORONTO, June 7 /CNW/ - Today, a coalition of kidney cancer patients,
advocates and experts challenged the Honourable George Smitherman and the
Ontario government to be a leader in the fight against kidney cancer and
provide patients with a chance at life. Next week, Ontario is reviewing
Nexavar, an important new therapy for kidney Cancer and the first treatment to
have been approved by Health Canada. The province will be deciding whether it
should be made available to patients in need.
"As a representative of Kidney Cancer Canada and kidney cancer patients
across the province, I'm challenging Mr. Smitherman and the province of
Ontario to take the lead in the fight against kidney cancer and cover Nexavar
- a breakthrough treatment that has been shown to extend, and improve the
lives of kidney cancer patients," said Deborah Maskens, co-founder of Kidney
Cancer Canada and a kidney cancer patient. "The Honourable George Smitherman
and the province of Ontario have previously demonstrated their commitment to
the health of Ontarians and we hope they continue this leadership role."
A New Standard of Care
New targeted treatments such as Nexavar and Sutent are now the standard
of care in Canada - and around the world - for a patient population previously
without hope. Nexavar, for example, is approved by Health Canada, covered in
13 countries, and by most Canadian private drug plans.
Barrier to Treatment: The Common Drug Review (CDR)
Despite international support for these drugs, the Common Drug Review
(CDR) - Canada's national drug review organization - has recently recommended
that government drug plans (outside of Quebec) not cover either Nexavar or
Sutent. By recommending that publicly funded drug plans not list these
treatments, the CDR is impeding access for patients who rely on government
drug benefits to drugs that have been approved by Health Canada, and that have
been shown to prolong progression-free survival in a patient population with
very few treatment options.
"This is a devastating recommendation for Canadian kidney cancer
patients," says Tony Clark, co-founder of Kidney Cancer Canada and a kidney
cancer patient. "These two new drugs are really the only effective treatments
we have. Without them, kidney cancer can spread rapidly throughout the body."
Both Nexavar and Sutent were approved by Health Canada in 2006 and can be
prescribed to patients legally, but their costs are prohibitive for
individuals to cover - about $6,000 a month.
"I was fortunate to have been accepted into the clinical trial for
Nexavar - a breakthrough new treatment which has given me years longer to
spend with friends and family, go back to work and even pay taxes," says Mr.
Clark. "Without Nexavar I wouldn't be here today."
"In Nexavar's clinical trial, the evidence was so overwhelming that for
ethical reasons, they had to stop giving some of the patients placebos and
start giving them the real drug. Now the CDR says the data was muddied and
won't recommend the drug. This is in complete contrast to the U.S. and Europe,
where the drug is recommended," Mr. Clark explains.
Both Nexavar and Sutent are effective treatments that Mr. Clark, Ms.
Maskens and kidney cancer experts agree should be publicly funded.
Flaws in the CDR Process
"Flaws in the CDR's review and decision-making process are undermining
physicians' primary duty of care to their patients," stated Dr. Jennifer Knox,
an oncologist specializing in kidney cancer, at a recent hearing of the
Standing Committee on Health to evaluate the effectiveness of the CDR. "For a
disease with extremely few treatment options, this recent CDR decision will
cause Canadians with kidney cancer to be woefully under-treated unless the
provincial governments choose to disregard this flawed advice."
The fact that the CDR is not capable of effectively reviewing cancer
treatments has already been acknowledged by Federal, Provincial and
Territorial governments. In a move to build more consistent review of cancer
drugs across the country, a collaboration of all provinces (except Quebec) has
introduced a cross-jurisdictional, interim process for a single review of
cancer drugs. This pilot process, known as the Joint Oncology Drug Review
(JODR), will be in place for approximately one year, after which an evaluation
will take place and recommendations for a permanent cross-jurisdictional
process will be made to the Deputy Ministers of Health. During this interim
process, all drugs used for active treatment of cancer will be submitted
through Ontario and follow the Ontario Guidelines for Drug Submission and
Nexavar will be among the first drugs to test this new review process.
A Chance At Life
"Breakthrough treatments such as sorafenib (Nexavar), sunitinib or
temsorolimus provide kidney cancer patients with the hope of a longer, more
productive life," says Dr. Jewett, a Urologist at Princess Margaret Hospital
and a leader in kidney cancer treatment and research.
Ms. Maskens, speaking on behalf of Kidney Cancer Canada urges the
Honourable George Smitherman "to ignore the CDR's recent recommendations and
to instead position the Province as a leader in the fight against kidney
cancer by making Nexavar available to all kidney cancer patients in Ontario."
About the Common Drug Review (CDR)
The CDR is a government appointed agency that makes recommendations to
provinces (with the exception of Quebec) regarding listing decisions for new
drugs. The CDR is governed by Deputy Ministers of Health who are in turn
appointed by provincial Premiers. As such the CDR is accountable to Canadians.
Before the creation of the CDR, Canada's federal, provincial, and
territorial drug plans had separate processes for conducting reviews and
making formulary listing recommendations. The CDR was set up to reduce
duplication, and to provide equal access to high level evidence and expert
About Kidney Cancer Canada
Kidney Cancer Canada is a new patient-led support organization with the
purpose of improving the quality of life of patients and their families living
with kidney cancer. Kidney Cancer Canada advocates for access to new
treatments, provides support and information to patients, and works to
increase awareness of kidney cancer as a significant health issue. For more
information about Kidney Cancer Canada, visit www.kidneycancercanada.org.
(1) CADTH/CDR Web site, http://www.cadth.ca/index.php/en/cdr/cdr-overview
For further information:
For further information: Tony Clark, Chair, Kidney Cancer Canada, (647)