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Access to Tarceva in BC, Canada


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Hi all. I went to our Lung Cancer Support Group this week. I haven't been in a long time but needed to go this week as we are organizing our 2nd Lung Cancer Awareness Day at the clinic and I had offered to help. And they were also discussing access to Tarceva in our province (policy varies across Canada). Even though I am currently on Tarceva, so can't sign a darn letter, I was elected (by lack of anyone else stepping up to it!) to write a letter to the politicians and the powers that be at our clinic.

The current policy is to only fund Tarceva for 2nd line treatment, and only if the patient has received chemotherapy as 1st line treatment. So anyone who declined or was not offered 1st line chemotherapy as a treatment option is not eligible to EVER get Tarceva. Of course you can go the US and pay for it on your own. It costs about $3,000 per month Cdn and I know of one lady who is paying for her own. I am also told that the drug company has a compassionate care policy and you can apply to get 25% of the cost reimbursed. I myself was told that 1st line chemo was a significant risk, which I took, but was not made aware at the time that if I denied it, I had just shut down any access to this important drug in the future.

Anyhow, as I am sure many of you will appreciate, this is a very unfair policy. I have now gathered lots of information on the premise of the argument for it, but it seems to boil down to this, "That there is no evidence that patients on Tarceva have longer surviival rates. But that Tarceva does have a positive influence on the quality of life as it has a positive affect on symptoms.

So I am looking for any help from you guys. Please point me to some evidence that Tarceva actually does extend survival rates. I know there are many examples here of where Tarceva has been extremely successful.

thanks in advance for your help


ps I am also starting a petition on this matter which we will kick off on our Lung Cancer Awareness Day. Will attempt some local press as well but that is a little more challenging as some of you know.

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I did a search for "tarceva" and "survival" on cancergrace.org and found 13 pages of links to articles on the GRACE site, starting here:

http://cancergrace.org/yahoo-search/?se ... al&start=1

Many of these articles discuss significant survival benefits for certain subgroups, such as patients who have never smoked, or patients who have tested positive for specific mutations/markers. The policy which you set in bold in your post may be the best that can be said for the entire lung cancer group when comparing Tarceva with cheaper IV drugs — I just don't know, and I didn't read every article looking for that info.

I think the best way for you to get an authoritative, properly phrased statement to support your argument is to post a question to Dr. West at cancergrace.org/forums. This might also elicit a response from Dr. Janessa Laskin, a medical oncologist at the British Columbia Cancer Agency in Vancouver who volunteers time to GRACE. Tell 'em "Ned sent me!"



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