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Cancer drugs on agenda for inclusion in formulary list

Ccancer patient Claire Ebejer spoke to MaltaToday and called for the government to reform its medicines formulary list so that it could account for recent medical developments in the treatment of cancer. 

Martina Borg
28 October 2015, 8:20am
Health parliamentary secretary Chris Fearne has said that breast cancer medications are to be discussed in an upcoming Government Formulary List Advisory Committee (GFLAC). 

In an interview published last week, cancer patient Claire Ebejer spoke to MaltaToday and called for the government to reform its medicines formulary list so that it could account for recent medical developments in the treatment of cancer. 

Ebejer was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, and after the disease spread to her brain in 2014, she required specific medication costing her some €3,000 a month to contain the tumour she suffers from and keep it from spreading further. The medication, known as Lapatinib, is not currently on the medicine’s formulary list, which has prompted groups such as the Action for breast cancer foundation, as well as politicians, to push for changes to the list of medicines offered by the state. 

“The Department of Health always attempts to gain the most value possible for Maltese patients out of the medications budget assigned to it,” Fearne said.

Under the 2016 Budget, the health ministry announced that it would add diabetes medicines to the list, but so far, nothing has been said about adding cancer medications. 

“As stated in the budget speech, the government is actively studying alternative and innovative ways of financing medications – including new cancer drugs as well as ‘orphan’ drugs – that is, drugs that are commercially underdeveloped given that they are used for very specific and relatively rare reasons,” Fearne said in response to questions from this newsroom.

Asked about the frequency of new medicines being added to the list, he said the list is “periodically revised with the inclusion of new medicines”.  

Fearne explained that an application for introduction must be submitted for a medicine to be introduced on the list, after which a health technology assessment (HTA) is performed and the medicine is discussed during the aforementioned committee.

“The committee then recommends or does not recommend the medication for introduction onto the list, and recommendations or rejections are then taken into consideration along with clinical evidence, outcome on disease progression and cost,” he added.

Asked whether there are any alternatives to Lapatinib currently on the formulary, Fearne explained that Lapatinib is indicated for the treatment of patients with breast cancer.

“As per clinical evidence, it is not curative but when used in combination to other breast cancer anti-tumour agents, it has been effectively proven to prolong life,” he said.

He added that there are currently several medicines for treatment of breast cancer that can be used alone or in a combination with other medicines.  

Martina Borg focuses on lifestyle and society issues
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