New Brunswick

Fredericton man battles colon cancer and government over drug coverage

A Fredericton man fighting colon cancer has another battle on his hands: Getting the New Brunswick government to pay for an expensive drug treatment.

A Fredericton man fighting colon cancer has another battle on his hands: Getting the New Brunswick government to pay for an expensive drug treatment.

Andrew Goodridge has been undergoing chemotherapy treatment every two weeks for the past 2½ months since he was diagnosed with colon cancer, which has also spread to his liver.

Goodridge said if the tumours in the liver do not shrink, he can't have surgery, and has been told he would have a year to a year-and-a-half to live.

Every specialist he has seen, in Fredericton, Saint John and Toronto, has recommended the drug Avastin.

The problem is, Goodridge said, New Brunswick is one of only three that doesn't cover the expensive medication. The other two are Prince Edward Island and Manitoba.

"I don't fear death, I don't fear the cancer. I think I can beat the cancer. The only stressful thing that keeps me up at night is, where is this money coming from?" he said.

Drug costs more than $6,000 a month

Starting with this week's treatment, Goodridge will spend more than $6,000 a month, out of his own pocket, for the drug therapy.

"We're going to have to get into our life savings at this point, and you know, I have to work full time to try to cover this, which is stressful enough under chemotherapy," he said.

Goodridge and his wife Rosemary having been researching Avastin and the way it's covered in the other seven provinces.

"I'm at a loss to determine why the citizens of New Brunswick aren't covered where this is administered in hospital by a medical practitioner," she said.

Premier Shawn Graham said coverage is still being considered, but he says Ottawa has to help.

"Our government has a responsibility to look at ways we can bring forward a catastrophic drug program for people who are suffering these terrible illnesses. But at the same time, we need a partnership with the federal government," he said.

No timeline on decision

The Department of Health says there is no specific timeline for a decision.

By Goodridge's interpretation, the department is actually contravening the Canada Health Act.

"It's a strange scenario. I actually have to go to the drugstore and buy the Avastin for $3,120 every two weeks, and then I take that and the hospital will administer that, again in my arm," he said.

"The Avastin has to be administered by a medical practitioner. It's not like going and picking up some Aspirin at the counter."