The P.E.I. chapter of the Canadian Cancer Society is concerned about how long the province is taking to make approved cancer drugs available to Islanders.

Lori Barker - Custom

Lori Barker would like to see cancer drugs made available on P.E.I. as soon as they are approved federally. (CBC)

Provinces must individually approve drugs and make them available after they are approved by the national pan-Canadian Oncology Drug Review. A Fraser Institute report reveals P.E.I. is taking twice as long as Ontario to put approved cancer drugs on its formulary. The average wait for P.E.I. is 309 days, as compared to 150 days in Ontario.

Cancer Society provincial executive director Lori Barker knows personally of at least a dozen people who have left the province to get better access to drugs.

"When people are waiting to access the medications they need, it truly is a matter of life and death. So the delay absolutely has a significant impact," said Barker.

"Some cancers are more aggressive where the timeliness of that treatment is absolutely crucial to the outcome for the patient."

Barker estimates about 50 drugs approved by the pan-Canadian Oncology Drug Review​ have still not been listed on P.E.I.'s formulary. She is encouraging the province to start listing drugs immediately after federal approval.

Barker hopes a new provincial drug review committee formed last fall will help fast-track approvals but she says budgetary constraints play a role as well.