Brain cancer treatment costs Guelph woman $30,000 per year
As the number of Ontario cancer patients receiving oral chemotherapy increases, so too does the volume of the calls for the province to fully fund the treatments.
It’s a funding gap Lynsey Frangakis knows all too well.
The Guelph resident was diagnosed with brain cancer more than two years ago.
A tumour in her frontal lobe had grown to the point where it was causing her to suffer seizures – as many as 30 a day, in some cases.
In January 2012, Frangakis was prescribed oral chemotherapy treatments.
“There’s no other treatment for me,” the 25-year-old tells CTV News.
“The tumour is too large to remove, and much too large to have radiation to. There would be permanent damage with both of those options.”
The treatment stopped after 12 months.
But even though insurance picked up the tab for 80 per cent of the cost, those 12 months’ worth of pills had Frangakis out-of-pocket for $30,000.
Cancer patients who are prescribed intravenous chemotherapy, on the other hand, see all their treatment covered by the province.
“Why is there a difference?” Frangakis says.
“Why is IV chemo covered and oral chemo not? They’re both there to keep people alive.”
Frangakis is hardly alone.
The CanCertainty Coalition – a group of 33 patient groups and health care charities led by Kidney Cancer Canada – says one-third of Ontario chemotherapy treatments are now done with pills.
“This is the wave of the future with cancer treatment,” says spokesperson Deb Maskens.
“It’s discrimination against cancer patients if we don’t fund oral drugs the way we fund intravenous drugs.”
Currently, Maskens says, Ontario only funds oral chemotherapy for people on social assistance or over the age of 65, leaving as many as 10,000 cancer patients on the hook for some of their treatment.
“There are too many patients and families in need,” she says.
A spokesperson for Health Minister Deb Mathews says the province is holding a “think tank” session in May to further study the issue.
“An in-depth analysis is required before we can make any significant changes to cancer drug coverage in Ontario,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
Doctors believe Frangakis will need another 12-month chemotherapy transplant – and the $30,000 to pay for it – every four to five years.