By Paul Moore
People fighting colorectal cancer got some long-awaited good news this week when the province announced that it is extending coverage of Avastin, a costly drug used to treat colorectal cancer.
Sandra Thompson-Bednarek, who organizes a local support group for people with the disease, called Avastin “almost the wonder drug of the last few years.”
Anywhere from 10 to 25 people regularly attend her meetings, many of whom are treated with the drug. She said she knows cancer patients who have lived for years on Avastin.
But some patients simply didn’t have enough money to keep taking the drug.
The government began paying for up to 16 doses of the drug in 2008, which covered about eight months of treatment. Yet many people, said Thompson-Bednarek, require more than that. And with treatments costing thousands of dollars, she said some local cancer patients faced financial ruin in order to keep taking the drug.
“There’s one woman in our group… her parents were both self-employed, so neither of them had any supplementary health insurance. So there was no way they were going to be able to afford to continue,” Thompson-Bednarek said.
Last September, Ontario ombudsman André Marin released a report that described Ontario’s cap on Avastin treatments as a “cruel cutoff” and called on the government to increase funding.
Then, last Sunday, the province’s health minister said Ontario would now provide patients with at least 24 treatments and perhaps more if necessary.
Thompson-Bednarek said that for patients in her support group, the government’s decision may help make their battle against cancer just a little easier.