[WATCH] All cancer medication to be free within three years, health minister pledges

National cancer plan envisages all cancer medication on government's formulary list within three years

tim_diacono
Tim Diacono
2 March 2017, 2:55pm
Maltese cancer patients will be given the chance to undergo clinical trials for the newest drugs developed by international researchers
Maltese cancer patients will be given the chance to undergo clinical trials for the newest drugs developed by international researchers
All cancer medication will be placed on the government's formulary list within the next three years, health minister Chris Fearne has announced.

Launching a new national cancer plan at the Sir Anthony Mamo oncology centre, Fearne said that Capecitabine – a medicine for breast, pancreas, stomach and liver cancer patients – was added to the government formulary list last month. It will be joined by other cancer medicines, including Mitomycin C and Doxorubicin, in the coming weeks.

The cancer plan, which is open for a two-month consultation period, also envisages the establishment of a national cancer research foundation to coordinate cancer treatment research in collaboration with foreign institutions. Fearne said that this means that Maltese cancer patients will be given the chance to undergo clinical trials for the newest drugs developed by international researchers.

The development of a number of advanced radiotherapy techniques is already underway at the Oncology Centre in collaboration with the Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Chris Fearne (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
Chris Fearne (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
A national cancer research registry will be set up to identify trends in cancer that will facilitate and support research and the planning and management of cancer services.  

The linear accelerators used for radiotherapy will be upgraded nd more radiotherapists will be hired.

The plan also calls for a greater allocation of the health ministry's budget on schemes targeting the prevention of illnesses, including cancer – currently only some 5% of the total budget. 

“The best way to treat cancer is to prevent it,” Fearne said. “Just as in the past we managed to prevent infective illnesses by developing antibiotics, clean drainage systems and high-quality public health services, so must we now act similarly to prevent non-infective illnesses including cancer.”

As such, the government will introduce restrictions on the marketing of sweets, soft drinks and other fatty and sweet food, as well as new legislation to require institutions and workplace canteens to include healthy options. Regular food consumption surveys will be carried out to monitor the eating habits of the Maltese population and to guide actions for food product improvement and effective educational campaigns.

A new Tobacco Control Strategy will also be drafted with the intention of reducing smoking rates, particularly amongst pregnant women, people with mental health problems, youth, children, and people who work in high-risk jobs.

Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday
Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday
An anti-smoking policy for mental health institutions, such as Mount Carmel, will be set up, and the authorities will seek “effective measures” to minimise the smuggling of cheaper tobacco products into Malta.