ABOVE: Health minister reacts to mother whose cancer treatment not covered by OHIP. Cindy Pom reports.
TORONTO – It may be a Milton woman’s last chance to prolong her life. But the Ontario government claims “the evidence” doesn’t support covering the cost of a drug called Avastin.
Kimm Fletcher, 41, has been battling brain cancer since 2010. It went into remission but came back as stage three cancer in August and was diagnosed as stage four cancer in September. She was recently given two months to live after being diagnosed with stage four brain cancer.
Fletcher’s family has set up an online fundraiser to pay for her treatments. In the last nine days, they’ve raised $19,880.
And at a fundraiser in Milton on Sunday, the family was able to raise $4,300 giving Fletcher enough money to pay for more Avastin treatments.
Doctors told her the cancer drug Bevacizumab, or Avastin, could potentially prolong her life by a year or longer. But six months of treatment costs approximately $48,000 and is not covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) in cases of brain cancer.
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“These are the toughest situations a health minister has to deal with,” Deb Matthews said in an interview at Queen’s Park Monday. “We have taken the politics out of what drugs are covered under the public drug program. This drug is covered for colorectal cancer. It has been twice before the committee on drugs and the evidence just does not warrant coverage for other types of cancer.”
The ministry’s committee to evaluate drugs concluded in 2011 that “this treatment has not been proven to improve survival.”
But the drug is covered in cases of brain cancer in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Matthews declined to compare OHIP with other provincial drug programs but insisted Ontario has a “very generous drug program.”
France Gélinas, an NDP MPP, is demanding answers as to why Avastin is not covered in Ontario when it is covered in other provinces.
“If other provinces have reviewed the drugs and found it effective, I want to know why is it that in Ontario we review the same drug with the same people, we found it not effective,” she said. “We have to bring compassion back into our decision making system when cases like this bring forward. This woman is worthy of our compassion and right now the health care system is not giving her that.”
– With files from Cindy Pom