As if the battle against ovarian cancer wasn’t hard enough, another fight is underway to fund the life-prolonging drug Lynparza.
Judy Fielden has just finished chemotherapy for her second bout of the deadly disease. The grandmother of five desperately wants more time with her family and Lynparza has the potential to add months, if not years, between recurrences.
But the drug that could help her do that isn’t readily available.
While deemed by Health Canada to be safe, Lynparza isn’t yet funded by the provinces until it is approved by the Canada’s drug review panel, pCODR.
The review is underway for the second time and won’t be approved at the earliest until August. The wait until then is the biggest frustration for those lobbying on behalf of ovarian cancer patients.
The only option for women like Fielden is to undergo surgery and chemotherapy, which is not as successful a treatment as it is for other cancers.
For groups like Ovarian Cancer Canada, the statistics that half of women diagnosed will die within five years illustrates why more money is needed to improve the lives and outcomes of patients.
Between 2010 and 2013, ovarian cancer received $27.1 million from the federal government for research. In that same period breast cancer received $119.5 million while prostate cancer received $52.8 million.
“I find it shocking, when you look how far cancer treatments have come overall and we’re still stuck this many years later with the same treatment,” Kelly Grover with Ovarian Cancer Canada said. “We don’t have as many treatments, we don’t have as much of an understanding of the disease, so we are still stuck with outcomes that haven’t changed in 50 years.”
That’s why Ovarian Cancer Canada is pushing to see drugs like Lynparza be more readily available.
“We have so few treatments come through the pipeline as it is so it is very disappointing to women who are living with the disease and cannot get access to drugs that are available in other countries,” Grover said. “We do know that the clinicians who are positioned to speak to the evidence do think that the drug should have been approved.”
Those clinicians are hopeful the Lynparza study currently under review with pCODR will be successful.
“It is a study with high-level data and so with luck it will pass, it will be approved,” Paul Hoskins, the former president of the Society of Gynecologic Oncology of Canada, said. “The only thing that will come up is the whole thing about price.”
Provinces determine what drugs are funded and how many patients will be impacted by the drug they choose.
But Hoskins recognizes that that isn’t what patients want to hear.
“They desperately need extra treatments that can actually prolong their life and also buy them a long time to their cancer next coming back and keeping the quality of life up so they can live,” Hoskins added.