After a stressful month spent scrambling to afford thousands of dollars in monthly out-of-pocket drug costs, Melanie Fraser can breathe a sigh of relief.
The 44-year old Valleyfield resident had spoken out publicly to The Guardian in early June about her struggle to afford Vectibix, a drug treatment her doctor had prescribed as a last option after a failed bout of chemotherapy. After battling cancer for six years, and then being faced with paying $5,760 per month for the drug, she received a call this week from Health Minister Robert Mitchell. Starting in August, she was told, the province would be covering the cost of Vectibix under its drug formulary.
"It's just such good news, to not have the stress on me, knowing that all my family is taking out of their cheques to pay for a drug for me,” Fraser said.
“Now I can concentrate more on myself and healing."
"It's just such good news, to not have the stress on me, knowing that all my family is taking out of their cheques to pay for a drug for me. Now I can concentrate more on myself and healing."
Vectibix will be one of 28 new drugs added to the Island’s drug formulary as of Aug. 1. Health and Wellness Minister Robert Mitchell announced the addition of the new drugs on Wednesday, which will be offered for many health conditions, including eye conditions, adult attention hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and cystic fibrosis. Thirteen of the new drugs added to the list were for cancer patients.
The addition of these drugs was the first major addition to the formulary in over two years, said Mitchell.
"Obviously, many Islanders rely on medications daily for their needs in fighting whatever type of illness they have. Today's a great day for Islanders," Mitchell said.
Mitchell said the province would spend $3 million on the addition of the new drugs to the formulary. These drugs are expected to help more than 260 Islanders, according to a government media release.
Belinda Montigny, a survivor of cancer, attended the announcement on Wednesday. She agreed the addition of the new medication will improve the quality of life of cancer patients.
“To not have to worry about the drugs you need to live life with your family, your children, your grandchildren, this is an incredible announcement today," Montigny said.
The addition of Vectibix followed Fraser’s public struggle with the costs of the drug. Her story was raised in the P.E.I. legislature earlier this month by Opposition MLA Colin LaVie.
While Fraser welcomed the news, she wants the government to update the provincial formulary more frequently.
“I just hope the government of P.E.I. doesn't wait every two or three years for this to happen. I think this should be a yearly thing, that there should be new drugs in different categories, every year, added to the list."
Sidney MacEwen, the Opposition health critic, said the addition of the new drugs was good news. But he agreed the formulary should be updated more regularly.
"We always seem to wait to see if other provinces approve it. If it goes OK, then we'll do it down the road. But that doesn't help the people that need it right away," MacEwen said.
"Perhaps there should be a dedicated allotment every year to spending on these new medications."
Just the facts:
The following 28 drugs and conditions will be added to the P.E.I. Pharmacare Formulary and/or the hospital formulary as of Aug. 1. Patients must meet both the clinical and program criteria to be eligible for coverage:
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
- Concerta, Biphentin and Vyvanse. All three of these medications are being added to cover attention deficit hyperactivity disorder for adults greater than 25 years of age
- Abraxane is being added for the treatment of locally advanced or metastatic pancreatic cancer
- Avastin* is being added for the treatment of cervical cancer - metastatic, persistent, or recurrent carcinoma of the cervix.
- Cotellic in combination with Zelboraf. This combination of drugs is being added for the treatment of unresectable or metastatic melanoma with a BRAF V600 mutation
- Gazyva in combination with chlorambucil is being added for previously untreated chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) where fludarabine based therapy is considered inappropriate
- Herceptin is being added for the treatment of metastatic gastric (stomach) cancer
- Imbruvica is being added as a treatment option for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) or small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL) who have received at least one prior therapy and are considered inappropriate for treatment or re-treatment with a fludarabine-based regimen.
- Inlyta is being added as a second line treatment option for patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma (mRCC)
- Kadcyla is being added as a second line treatment option for patients with HER2-positive, unresectable, locally advanced or metastatic breast cancer
- Opdivo is being added for the treatment of unresectable or metastatic melanoma BRAF wild-type melanoma; advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer; advanced or metastatic renal cell carcinoma.
- Treanda is being added as a first line treatment option of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) for patients who cannot tolerate fludarabine-based regimens.
- Vectibix is being added as a third line treatment option for metastatic colorectal cancer
- Xalkori is being added as a first-line treatment for patients with ALK-positive non-small cell lung cancer.
Cystic Fibrosis (CF)
- Kalydeco is being added for the treatment of cystic fibrosis patients with the G551D mutation
- Cayston is being added for the treatment of cystic fibrosis with chronic pulmonary pseudomonas aeruginosa infections
- Pulmozyme is being added for the treatment of cystic fibrosis
- Diacomit is being added for the treatment for Dravet syndrome, a severe pediatric form of epilepsy
- Avastin*, Eylea and Lucentis. All three of these medications are being added to the formulary for the treatment of: diabetic macular edema (DME); Macular edema due to retinal vein occlusion (RVO); Choroidal neovascularization (CNV)
- Zaxine is being added for the treatment of hepatic encephalopathy
- Myrbetriq is being added for the treatment of overactive bladder (OAB)
- Adempas is being added for the treatment of chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension
- Entyvio, Humira and Inflectra/Remicade. All three of these medications are being added for the treatment of ulcerative colitis
*Avastin is being added to the formulary for two different indications – eye care and cervical cancer