Wait to access ovarian cancer treatments costing lives

Tuesday, September 26, 2017 General News
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Ovarian Cancer Canada calls for immediate action on access to treatment for most fatal women's cancer


26, 2017 /CNW/ - Most women with ovarian cancer do not survive five years past diagnosis. Part of the reason why is Canada's publicly-available treatments have not changed considerably since the 1990s. Today this
disease continues to be the most fatal women's cancer in the country.

Women living with ovarian cancer recently heard news that could mean progress as pCODR (the pan-Canadian Oncology Drug Review) recommended public funding of a treatment called Lynparza, which shows promise for a more targeted approach to care based on specific tumour characteristics. Lynparza is already benefiting women in more than 30 countries worldwide, calling into question the delay to access being faced by Canadians.

"Change is already long overdue. When a drug is approved by Health Canada and is shown to be a substantial improvement on standard care, it must be made available quickly," says Elisabeth Baugh, CEO, Ovarian Cancer Canada. "We are calling on provincial and territorial governments, drug manufacturers and private insurers to enable access to these drugs immediately so that Canadian women with ovarian cancer can rightly benefit from the speed of science."

As next steps, most provinces and territories will have to balance pCODR's positive recommendation with cost considerations to arrive at decisions on public funding. To reach this point in Quebec, a separate process is underway and INESSS (Institut national d'excellence en santé et en services) has yet to file its public funding recommendation.

Without approved funding, broader access to Lynparza will be held back. Avastin, another drug for ovarian cancer, has been pending a funding decision for a year and women who need it have been denied access in the interim.

The time taken up by this process has devastating repercussions. Five Canadian women die from this disease every day.

Standard treatment for ovarian cancer combines chemotherapy and surgery. While this does work initially, 85 per cent of patients with advanced stage ovarian cancer experience recurrence and require additional therapy. In these cases, tumors are usually less responsive to subsequent rounds of treatment and currently there is nothing available to overcome this resistance.

"Evidence indicates that specific drugs to treat ovarian cancer extend progression-free survival in women. However, these drugs are currently awaiting public funding decisions," says Dr. Walter Gotlieb, President, Society of Gynecologic Oncology of Canada. "As healthcare professionals, we always seek to provide the best available treatments. As these become available, decision makers must clear the way and enable us to improve the standard of care for Canadian women battling ovarian cancer."

Women with ovarian cancer run out of treatment options every day, resulting in a staggering five-year mortality rate of 56 per cent. These outcomes haven't significantly improved in 50 years. New drugs must be evaluated based on evidence and if a positive impact is demonstrated they must be made publicly available as quickly as possible to enable women with this disease to live better and longer lives.

About Ovarian Cancer Canada

Ovarian Cancer Canada is the only registered Canadian charity solely dedicated to overcoming ovarian cancer. The organization provides leadership by supporting women and families living with the disease, raising awareness, and funding research into prevention, improved treatments, and ultimately, a cure. For information, go to ovariancanada.org.

SOURCE Ovarian Cancer Canada


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