Friday, March 12, 2010

Avastin - now only 140,000 Canadians with no coverage!

In November 2009, then Prince Edward Island Health Minister Doug Currie announced that PEI could not afford to cover the cancer drug Avastin and that it would not be added to the provincial formulary. Prince Edward Island is now the only province that does not cover this drug. Avastin was approved for use by Health Canada in 2005, however, the governments of each province must decide for themselves whether to cover the cost for their residents. In the case of Prince Edward Island, Minister Currie estimated that, if Avastin was covered, the cost to the province would be approximately $600,000 per year and that it was unaffordable.

Avastin works to stop the formation of new blood vessels in tumours thus preventing further growth. It is often used in combination with other drugs to treat cases of advanced (metastatic) colorectal cancer. It is also used to treat certain breast and lung cancers as well as wet macular degeneration. Avastin is an extremely expensive drug with an 8 month round of treatment estimated to cost approximately $40,000. This is well beyond what most Islanders can afford.

I find it difficult to imagine that the manufacturer of the drug, Roche the world's largest biotech company, can morally justify charging $40,000 for a round of treatment. It is far more immoral that the Ghiz government has put a price on the lives of Islanders. This is particularly irritating when our elected Liberal MLAs voted to spend $1 million on the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, gave $600,000 to Cavendish Farms for "employee re-training" and granted $400,000 to the Liberal promoters of the failed Alanis Morissette concert in 2008 among other questionable expenditures.

What is particularly devasting is that many Islanders may be surprised to find that they are not covered for Avastin with their supplemental health coverage through Medavie Blue Cross. Most unfortunately, it seems that no matter how well we plan for our futures, in this case, we are forced to rely on our government to look after our needs.

I urge you to contact our new Health and Wellness Minister Carolyn Bertram by email at or by telephone at 368-5250 and strongly request that she act without delay to add Avastin to the provincial drug formulary before it is too late for even one more Islander.


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