The Fraser Institute

The Fraser Institute

November 07, 2013 06:15 ET

The Fraser Institute: Government Delays in Approving New Cancer Medicines Left 5,000 Canadian Patients Waiting

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Nov. 7, 2013) - The health of more than 5,000 Canadian cancer patients may have been negatively affected by slow federal and provincial regulatory and reimbursement approval procedures for five new oncology drugs, concludes a new study published today by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank.

The study, Potential Impact of Delayed Access to Five Oncology Drugs in Canada, found that if patients had access to these new drugs, an additional 1,696 patient-years could have been added to their lives. The value of this extension in life is estimated to be between $339.2 and $559.6 million.

"These are real people, with real lives, who should not be ignored. The problem is that these are anonymous people and so they receive less attention from decision makers than victims of adverse drug reactions," said Nigel Rawson, the study's author and a Fraser Institute senior fellow.

"Even under conservative assumptions, federal and provincial delays in providing access to these five drugs potentially affected a large number of patients who may have benefited from the drugs."

The indications are that provincial governments consider these drugs to be worth their cost, which suggests that the delays in approving reimbursement were not due to high prices, but to a slow approval process.

The study highlights how a mutual recognition process could go a long way to eliminating much of the delay. Once the first province approves a drug for reimbursement, the other provinces could follow suit with their approval, offering patients quicker access to potentially life-saving drugs.

The study examined:

  • Aspects of cancer and the five drugs: Avastin, Halaven, Jevtana, Tarceva and Torisel which treat solid tumours that have spread to other parts of the body. They are difficult to treat and generally have a poor prognosis;
  • Benefits, risks and regulatory and reimbursement milestones; and
  • Estimates of the potential numbers of patients impacted by delayed access and the potential economic value of lives lost.

The drugs were chosen because each was tested in a pivotal, randomized clinical trial (RCT) that demonstrated a statistically significant increase in overall survival when compared with standard therapy.

"The decision process can take too long. Timeliness is important to patients as well as their physicians and pharmaceutical manufacturers," said Rawson.

Potential Impact of Delayed Access to Five Oncology Drugs in Canada follows a 2012 study by the Fraser Institute that found Canada's reviews and approvals of new cancer drugs took almost twice as long as the United States. Access to New Oncology Drugs in Canada Compared with the United States and Europe determined that Canadians wait significantly longer for new cancer medicines.

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The Fraser Institute is an independent Canadian public policy research and educational organization with offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal and ties to a global network of 86 think-tanks. Its mission is to measure, study, and communicate the impact of competitive markets and government intervention on the welfare of individuals. To protect the Institute's independence, it does not accept grants from governments or contracts for research. Visit

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