ACT program helps with costs of cancer treatment
Published Tuesday, June 10, 2014 6:18PM EDT
A group of London doctors is giving new hope to people with rare forms of cancer by setting up a fund to help defray the cost of drugs not covered by insurance.
Gail Harper is battling skin cancer and it's been a tough fight.
"I had a large tumour in my cheek. I had a second one. They were going to operate but said it was too dangerous - too close to the brain," she says.
Her case is unique, and conventional treatment could only go so far. Help and hope rested with a novel drug therapy that costs $11,000 a month - and it's not covered by insurance.
That's where Dr. Kylea Potvin, an oncologist at the London Regional Cancer Program, and the Access Cancer Therapies or ACT program came in.
"It's trying to find those exceptional cases where as a clinician we see this patient and we want to get them access to a drug but they're falling through the cracks," Potvin explains.
Harper is the first patient to benefit from the ACT program, which helps to subsidize the cost of drugs not covered by insurance. It's a service that's bound to see a growing demand in an era of personalized medicine.
"Cancer isn't one disease any more," Potvin says. "It's a thousand rare diseases...I can put ten breast cancer patients in front of you and their cancer will behave very differently in all of them."
Patients are assessed by a team of doctors for eligibility in the program.
Since November Harper has been taking the drug vismodegid.
"When I started on that drug, within two months I could start seeing a difference....It's amazing, I can't think of where I'd be without this."
For doctors, the rewards are also numerous.
"There is no other cancer program in the world that has an initiative like this," Potvin says.