RICHMOND HILL, ON, June 14, 2012 /CNW/ - If after battling brain cancer for years, with no traditional treatment options left, your physician prescribed a drug that could prolong your life - how much would you pay?
In Ontario, 6 months will cost you $26,000. $26,000 of your hard-earned, after-tax dollars to get the treatment your physician prescribed. For Canadians living in B.C., Manitoba or Newfoundland, the cost of the same drug is zero.
Since January 2012, 56-year-old Ken Kotyluk of Richmond Hill, ON, has had Avastin treatments every 3 weeks. Cost to date: $21,000. Having exhausted all other therapies for brain cancer and defied the odds for more than 5 ½ years, Ken's physician, Dr. James R. Perry, Head of Neurology at Toronto's Sunnybrook Hospital prescribed Avastin, from Hoffmann-LaRoche. Dr. Perry's monthly MRI scans show that the spidery-type tumours found in the highly malignant form of brain cancer called glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) have not progressed since treatments began. But Ken has to keep coming with the cash. $1,000 a week for as long as what the medical community calls Progression-Free Survival (PFS) continues.
Dr. Perry's request to the Ontario Public Drug Programs Division requesting funding for ONE month's worth of coverage to measure treatment outcomes was declined. In B.C., Manitoba and Newfoundland, Avastin coverage is defined as "supportive care." In Ontario, the OPDP requires Avastin to prove a "survival advantage." It's not possible to prove how much longer a patient lives, but it is beyond debate that the drug does halt disease progression. If Ken can no longer afford to pay for treatment and tumour growth resumes, hospitalization will soon follow where the cost to Ontario's healthcare system will quickly exceed the cost of covering Avastin in the first place. Patients in similar circumstances will lose the chance to learn more about coping with this devastating disease.
Ontario's Ministry of Health touts special programs for special needs, but there's no department that will provide the financial coverage to ensure treatment is continued and learnings are shared. For residents of B.C., Manitoba and Nfld., in the absence of a cure there is care. For brain cancer patients in Ontario, the burden of cost competes with the burden of health.
Ken Kotyluk and his wife have a website, www.helpsupportken.com and a Facebook Page: Life Saving Drug Coverage Coalition, calling for similar stories about the real cost of healthcare in this province.
Image with caption: "AvastinIV is given intravenously to decrease the blood supply to the tumour and thereby slow tumour growth. (CNW Group/Brooking Media Consulting Inc.) (CNW Group/SUNNYBROOK HEALTH SCIENCES CENTRE)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20120614_C8581_PHOTO_EN_15117.jpg
For further information:
Kathleen Fanstone & Ken Kotyluk
SUNNYBROOK HEALTH SCIENCES CENTRE
CSR Office: 416-480-4040 for Dr. Perry