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Allowing subsidies, IP protection for off-label most cancers medicine will drive up prices: MOH, Latest Singapore News

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The value of most cancers remedy will inevitably rise if public healthcare financing is “liberally extended to very expensive and novel cancer drugs”, the Ministry of Health (MOH) mentioned on Friday (June 17).

In a letter to The Straits Times, MOH director of finance coverage Lydia Loh mentioned insurance coverage premiums may also go up, with the general impact being decreased affordability for most individuals.

She added that upcoming adjustments to most cancers remedy financing have already prompted pharmaceutical firms to cut back costs of most cancers medicine by 30 per cent on common, so as to profit from subsidies and medical insurance protection below MediShield Life and Integrated Shield plans (IPs).

Ms Loh was responding to an ST article revealed earlier this week, by which senior well being correspondent Salma Khalik known as on the ministry to rethink its adjustments to most cancers remedy financing, and readers’ letters to the ST Forum web page.

These adjustments, that are slated to kick in from September, embody limiting MediShield Life and IP protection to an inventory of most cancers medicine which were clinically confirmed to work and are thought of cost-effective.

The checklist has particular guidelines on how every drug ought to be utilized in remedy.

It implies that “off-label” drug use – as an illustration, new medicine which haven’t but acquired official regulatory approval, or current ones that aren’t listed to be used towards a selected most cancers – will not qualify for protection.

This is even supposing sufferers have, once in a while, benefited tremendously from off-label medicine after customary therapies have failed.

In her response, Ms Loh mentioned off-label medicine haven’t been accepted by the Health Sciences Authority to be used in sure circumstances, usually as a result of there may be not sufficient scientific proof to determine their security and efficacy.

“We understand that at times, off-label drugs may provide much-needed hope for patients and their loved ones,” she mentioned.

“Hence, oncologists are allowed to prescribe such drugs, but without subsidies, MediShield Life or Integrated Shield Plan coverage. We also hope patients weigh the risks and costs with their doctor and insurer to make an informed decision.”

Ms Loh added that there are non-public insurance coverage schemes that cowl off-label most cancers medicine.

Subsidised sufferers who’ve been assessed by public healthcare establishments to require most cancers medicine outdoors of the checklist, and have problem affording them, might apply for presidency help reminiscent of MediFund.

MOH may also facilitate referrals of personal sufferers to subsidised care, she mentioned.

In a separate letter, MOH’s Agency for Care Effectiveness (ACE) mentioned that whereas most cancers sufferers account for about 2 per cent of all sufferers, most cancers medicine represent 35 per cent of public sector drug spending. From 2017 to 2021, this spending elevated by 90 per cent to $275 million whereas general nationwide age-adjusted most cancers mortality improved by 2.1 per cent.

On common, 50 per cent of recent most cancers medicine or newly found makes use of for current medicine enter the market with no proof that they enhance survival or high quality of life.

Many others present a rise in survival of some weeks or months, or an enchancment in most cancers markers with no prolongation of life, mentioned Dr Daphne Khoo, ACE’s govt director.

“There are, of course, exceptions,” Dr Khoo mentioned. “Exceptions aside, the general picture is one of rapidly escalating drug costs with marginal improvement in clinical outcomes, and will significantly drive up health insurance premiums and reduce affordability, especially for lower-income individuals.”

She mentioned that Singapore should strike a steadiness between permitting the liberal use of most cancers medicine and preserving the general scheme inexpensive by means of the better use of cost-effective medicine.

ACE was arrange in 2015 to evaluate the influence and worth of healthcare expertise. It labored with MOH in drawing up the brand new most cancers drug checklist, and likewise sought suggestions from oncologists and affected person advocacy teams.

Dr Khoo mentioned most nations don’t subsidise or reimburse off-label use of most cancers medicine, given the unsure scientific advantages and the danger of unintended effects.

“There are situations in which off-label use is justified and MOH allows it, provided certain criteria, such as those on clinical and cost-effectiveness, are met,” she mentioned, including that firms and docs are suggested to submit their proof to ACE in time in order that sufferers have higher entry to new most cancers medicine.

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Allowing subsidies, IP protection for off-label most cancers medicine will drive up prices: MOH, Latest Singapore News.
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