It should have been a time for celebration for Langley resident Karen McLaren, following all her work to get the cancer fighting drug Ibrance covered for women with metastatic breast cancer.
On April 1, the B.C. Cancer Agency announced it will cover the costs of a potentially life-saving drug Ibrance. The drug specifically works well for women with advanced breast cancer, stopping the disease from spreading or growing.
But McLaren isn’t celebrating.
While the BC Cancer Agency has added the drug to its registry, the restrictions on which patients will be eligible to receive it are so limited in scope that almost no person will qualify, said McLaren.
Women can’t even be considered unless they are post-menopausal.
McLaren is only 42 years old.
“I am disappointed that the BC Cancer Agency chose to add this caveat to their coverage. This limits almost everyone’s access to this life prolonging drug,” McLaren told the Times.
It’s a troubling blow for McLaren, who has been paying out of pocket $8,000 a month to get the daily pill.
“Their statement ‘post-menopausal women with ER-positive, HER2- negative advance breast cancer with no prior systemic treatment (including chemotherapy) for metastatic disease,’ excludes me and all the other patients who have been treated with any other approved treatments,” she said.
“So while Ibrance has been tied up in the bureaucratic system of approval, many of us have undergone treatments, which now (place) us outside the parameters of their conditions.”
Dr. Helen Anderson, the provincial lead for Systemic Therapy at BC Cancer Agency said she doesn’t believe there is enough evidence at this time to fund Ibrance for patients outside the strict parameters.
Ibrance has been approved for first line treatment of post-menopausal, ER positive, HER2 negative metastatic breast cancer.
“This is the setting where there is good evidence of a benefit for patients, and where Ibrance has shown the most impact in the treatment of this type of cancer,” writes Anderson.
“There is not enough evidence at this time to fund Ibrance outside of the approved indication. However, a number of other effective treatments with proven benefit are available for metastatic breast cancer patients.”
She didn’t indicate what those treatments are beyond the traditional mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation.