News Online: Province moves closer to covering cancer-fighting drug

Published online at on February 9, 2011.

Linda Hoang, Global News: Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Province moves closer to covering cancer-fighting drug

An expensive cancer-fighting drug is one step closer to being approved for government funding in the province.

After months of review, the Federal Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee, a panel responsible for looking into the the effectiveness of the drug Tykerb, has decided to move forward in recommending the drug be funded by government.

“They look fundamentally at the science to see if it’s worthwhile to fund it and they felt it was,” said Dr. Katia Tonkin, medical oncologist and professor at the University of Alberta. “It’s very good news.”

That’s great news for Edmonton cancer patient Kelly Mah.

Mah and her family have been trying to figure out how to afford Tykerb, also known as Lapatanib, the stage four breast cancer drug that has given positive results for many patients during testing, but is very expensive.

Patients have to pay roughly $4000 a month fort he drug because Alberta doesn’t fund it.

“A huge weight has been lifted off our shoulders literally,” Kelly Mah told Global Edmonton on Tuesday night.

“It’s something that I really didn’t think it would happen, honestly so soon,” Mah said.

“We just couldn’t afford this drug over a long period of time… it would have bankrupted us,” said Rick Stroppel, Mah’s husband.

Tonkin said the board is now working on negotiating a price with the drug company. then the recommendation will be made to Alberta’s Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky.

“And I don’t think he’ll cause any delays at all,” Tonkin said.

Although there are still a few more steps left in the process, the family is still celebrating with the hope that now Mah might not have to choose between bankrupting her family or living.

“The financial problem has been solved and now we can concentrate on fighting the disease,” Stroppel said.

“It means everything to us,” Mah said. “It means I have a chance of leading the life I used to have… I can see my daughter grow up.”

Both the B.C. and Saskatchewan governments currently cover the cost of the drug for patients.

With files from Linda Nguyen

Click here to read the article on the Global Edmonton website.

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