P.E.I. sole holdout on cancer drug

It is unfair that Prince Edward Islanders are the only Canadians that must pay for cancer drug Avastin on their own, says the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada.

Prince Edward Islanders are the only Canadians that must pay for cancer drug Avastin on their own, and the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada says that is unfair.

Earlier this week New Brunswick added the drug to the list of medications it covers, leaving P.E.I. the only province not paying for the drug. Barry Stein, president of the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada, is now urging P.E.I. to cover the cost of Avastin as well.

The drug is expensive, about $40,000 a year for each patient. But Stein told CBC News on Wednesday it is effective in the treatment of colorectal cancer. In combination with chemotherapy it can sometimes shrink tumours so they can be removed.

"It's not a huge amount of money when we're talking about increasing survival, particularly when we're talking about treatments that are available everywhere else in the country," he said.

The P.E.I. government is still trying to make money available to add more drugs, such as Avastin, to its formulary. ((CBC))

Health Minister Doug Currie estimates adding Avastin to its formulary would cost the province about $600,000 a year. He said the province is hoping to find some efficiencies in its drug system so it can add more medications.

"We are making inroads and we're going to continue to work at providing equitable, fair access to drug care for all Islanders. But the reality of it is, it's going to take a little bit of time," said Currie.

"As we move forward to adding more drugs to the formulary, Avastin certainly has the potential to be added."

While it makes efforts to find the money to make additions, the province has been pushing for a federal catastrophic drug plan. Stein said people with colorectal cancer can't wait.

"We all know that the catastrophic drug plan is something that's been discussed for a long time in Ottawa but is not on any fast track," he said.

"It's unfair to those colorectal cancer patients in P.E.I. who are not accessing the standard of care, to be sloughed off for a potential solution at a later date."

Patients in New Brunswick will be eligible for Avastin coverage starting Dec. 1.