February 5th, 2022

// Tomorrow Can’t Wait: Every Canadian Deserves Access to Breakthrough Cancer Treatments

Tomorrow Can’t Wait: Every Canadian Deserves Access to Breakthrough Cancer Treatments

OTTAWA, Feb. 04, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Cancer ends more Canadian lives than anything else. In 2020, cancer killed 83,300 Canadians. New research from The Conference Board of Canada shows that although there are new breakthrough treatments available, many in Canada will not have access to these life-extending therapies. The report, released today on World Cancer Day, details the varied and vast barriers to access and the reform that could grant friends and family members additional years of life – many more tomorrows – if the right measures are taken today.

“The findings can empower Canadians navigating a healthcare system that is increasingly becoming an uphill battle in accessing care and treatments,” said Chad Leaver, director of the Health Knowledge Area at The Conference Board of Canada. “The treatments are available. They can give the gift of more time lived – and add value to Canada’s economy. Each added year could mean witnessing a graduation, seeing retirement or experiencing the birth of a grandchild. Our recommendations challenge health system leaders to accelerate specific reforms to broaden access to these promising innovations. The lack of equity in patient access across Canada is concerning. In comparison with other countries, we are lagging far behind."

Breakthrough treatments have ushered in the era of personalized or precision medicine. Canada’s regulatory process approves these treatments for use quickly. But the country ranks 18th in a list of 20 OECD countries in its ability to complete the complex price negotiations that ultimately allow physicians to access them for their patients through provincial plans.

Investments in risk-sharing agreements, optimizing the use of real-world evidence and diagnostic genetic testing frameworks are key to transforming approval and reimbursement of breakthrough treatments for cancer and other disease groups. Integration will require data sharing and interoperability to monitor outcomes and facilitate agile system-level decision making.

As the report unveils, Canada’s healthcare systems have an opportunity to evolve and enable forthcoming innovations in cancer care. Canada’s response to the pandemic has demonstrated that it is possible to work together to implement solutions to big problems with speed and agility.

“The cumulative benefits of breakthrough cancer treatments could add up to 226,445 life years,” adds Leaver. “Ensuring eligible and waiting patients can receive breakthrough treatments is critical to allowing more Canadians to experience more tomorrows.”

Key findings from the research:

  • Cancer remains the leading cause of death in Canada.
  • An estimated 2 in 5 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. 1 in 4 will die from cancer. 
  • In 2020 alone, cancer took 83,000 Canadian lives and 225,800 Canadians were diagnosed with cancer.
  • The enormous backlog in cancer diagnoses, caused by the pandemic, underscores the need for governments, industry and researchers to respond and accelerate change.
  • Treatment options in the recent past were limited to surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Breakthrough treatments can increase survival without the side effects of the early options.
  • Breakthrough treatments have ushered in the era of personalized or precision medicine.
  • These advanced therapies target genes, tissues or cells specifically responsible for cancer growth.
  • Canadian patients have a significant delay in accessing breakthrough treatments.
  • Access to breakthrough treatments in Canada is inequitable. Coverage varies between provinces; and where patients receive care within their province also matters. 
  • With some treatments, up to 60% of Canadian patients may be eligible without having access. 
  • Pharmaceutical coverage, coordination of care and treatment, and access to diagnostic services vary between and within provinces.
  • Patients in Canada also have less access to ground-breaking clinical trials which is often the earliest point of access to new advanced therapies.
  • Potential cumulative benefits of breakthrough cancer treatments in our study totalled 226,445 life years gained and $5.9 billion in potential economic value across five tumour types over the last decade.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that with urgency, speedy approvals and timely access to vaccines and treatments are possible.
  • Canada is slow to complete the complex price negotiations so doctors can access breakthrough treatments for their patients. 
  • Four reforms could improve timely patient access to breakthrough cancer treatment in Canada: 
    1. Streamline government processes of health technology assessment and price negotiation to accelerate access to breakthrough treatments​.
    2. Change how these therapies are funded to facilitate value-based care and risk-sharing agreements.​
    3. Fund access to diagnostic tests when breakthrough therapies are approved.
    4. Expand and integrate systems that collect and share data​.
  • Policy reforms will require a clear mandate from government, accountability frameworks, funding from all sectors and a collaborative operational governance model.

The full report is available here www.conferenceboard.ca/Tomorrow-Cant-Wait

About The Conference Board of Canada:
The Conference Board of Canada is the country’s leading independent research organization. Our mission is to empower and inspire leaders to build a stronger future for all Canadians through our trusted research and unparalleled connections. Follow The Conference Board of Canada on Twitter @ConfBoardofCda.


Sign Up and get a free 7 day Train it Right HIIT Program!