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National Assessment of Cancer Drugs May Improve Access

While not mandatory for provinces, Canada's new national oncology drug review process may already be helping to standardize cancer therapies and better inform decision-makers nationwide. The process, led by the pan-Canadian Oncology Drug Review (pCODR), was created to provide all provinces except Quebec, which opted not to participate, with recommendations on the clinical and cost-effectiveness of new cancer drugs. According to CMAJ, the journal of the Canadian Medical Association, there are indications that some provinces intend to align their policies with national recommendations.

In deciding whether to recommend provincial funding for a new drug, the pCODR examines the health benefits of the drug, including clinical safety, effectiveness, the burden of illness and therapeutic need of patients, and cost-effectiveness.

National drug reviews will reduce duplication of effort by individual provinces and cancer agencies. Submissions for review can be made prior to a drug being approved for sale in Canada, which should make drugs available more quickly, in the event they are approved. Health Canada spokesperson Olivia Caron told CMAJ that the federal government is also hopeful that the national review process will lead to more affordable access to cancer drugs.


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