Friday, 27 September 2013

Nova Scotia Election Campaign: New Democratic Party Responses to CCSN's Questions

Question 1:

The Canadian Medical Association Journal published research in 2012 that showed one in ten Canadians report they skip doses or decide not to fill prescriptions because of cost, with the second highest incidence of cost nonadherence happening in the Atlantic provinces. If elected to government, what will your party do to make prescription medications more affordable?
In the 2009 election campaign, the NDP committed to the creation of a Drug Management Policy Unit. As a result of the work of that group, the Fair Drug Pricing Act was introduced and passed in the Legislature, and went into effect on July 1, 2011.  Seniors and other Nova Scotians enrolled in the province’s Pharmacare programs now pay less for each prescription of most generic drugs at the pharmacy counter. Prices went down on July 1, 2011 and again on January 1, 2012, and again on July 1, 2012. Through the Fair Drug Pricing Act, the NDP is making sure that Nova Scotians covered by Pharmacare are getting better prices for generic drugs – prices in line with those paid in other parts of Canada. The Data in the 2012 CMAJ article you cite would not capture the advances the NDP government has made on drug prices during this mandate. And, using overall data for the Atlantic provinces may mask the effects as well. That being said, there is more to do, and the NDP will continue to take action in government to drive down the cost of drugs.
Question 2:
If elected to government, will your party change MSI regulations to cover the cost of treatment and pressure garments necessary to treat lymphedema?
As you may be aware, the NDP recently announced a new program to cover some of the costs of hearing aids for seniors in Nova Scotia. In reviewing options, the Ontario program provided some very useful insights. The Ontario Assistive Devices Program provides coverage for compression garments and is a potential model for Nova Scotia, should funding become available in the health spending envelope.
Question 3:
A key element of ensuring timely treatment for a Canadian cancer patient is ensuring they have access to the medications they need at the time they need them. Unfortunately, this is not always the case in Nova Scotia. If elected to government, will you commit to ensuring that all cancer patients in Nova Scotia receive timely access to medications at the time they need it?
The Cancer Systemic Therapy Policy Committee provides the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness with advice on what cancer drugs should qualify for public funding. The Committee is made up of 23 people, including cancer specialists, a cancer survivor, a pharmacist, ethicist, other health care providers and Department representatives. The Committee reviews cancer drugs using a values and evidence based on a decision making framework. The framework is used to guide discussions around the economics, ethics, and evidence to make recommendations to the Deputy Minister of Health about additions, changes and deletions to the cancer drug formulary. Decisions about specific drugs should not be made by political parties – they are medical decisions and the NDP relies on the advice and experience of the people on the Committee to that end.
Question 4:
If elected to government, how will your party ensure that all hospital emergency rooms remain open 24 hours a day, seven days a week?
When elected, the NDP government hired Dr. John Ross to help develop a new approach to pervasive ER closures across the province. As a result, CECs – now regarded as a model across the country – were developed. In communities with a CEC, ER closures have decreased by as much as 93%. But there is still work to do. The NDP will open more CECs in consultation with communities and working with DHAs to meet local health needs. In addition, during this campaign, the NDP committed to a network of nurse managed clinics – Better Care Clinics – to provide better care to those suffering with chronic diseases or conditions. Cancer survivors will get better care with these clinics too, since nurses are often able to spend more time with their patients and can take a more holistic approach to their care plans.
Question 5: 
Is your party in favour of maintaining the same number of health districts in the province? If not, please explain how you would modify the number of health districts and what is the rationale for this policy?
Dr. John Ross hit the nail on the head when he said that the push to amalgamate the DHAs in to centralized superboards will waste money on “administrative busywork.” Under the NDP government, health administration spending was reduced by 23.3%, the best record in Canada over the same time period. Mary Jane Hampton, a well-respected health consultant said, “To suggest that the solution to saving health care is to yank millions of dollars out of administration and put those dollars into patient care is a dangerously simplistic argument.” Losing local control in decision making is simply wrong. The NDP has committed to reducing administrative spending in health further, but without throwing the system into chaos.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Participants Needed: UBC Research Study - Lung Cancer Booklet

Are you related to a person with lung cancer? Do you smoke or have you recently quit?

Researchers at the University of British Columbia are looking for family members of lung cancer patients to participate in a research study.

Tell researchers what you think about a new booklet for family members about reducing and stopping smoking. Up to 2 hours of your time - $50.00 honorarium.

The feedback from the booklets will be summarized and the findings will be used to refine and improve the new booklet resources. Interested individuals will be asked to read the booklet and complete two telephone interviews (the total time to participate is less than 2 hours).

Your personal experience and feedback will make a big difference on the effectiveness of this resource.

For more information, please contact or (250) 807-8054.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Canadian Cancer Survivor Network calls for increased training and closer oversight and supervision of radiologists

The approximately 3,500 patients who relied on results of CT scans and mammograms conducted by Trillium Health now called into question have every right to be both worried and outraged.  Canadians trust that mammography and CT scans will help them learn whether they are in good health or whether an abnormal scan requires further investigation, leading to an early diagnosis and treatment of cancer with better outcomes.

“When I have a mammogram and then get that letter saying everything is fine and I don’t need to come back for two years,  I believe that everything is okay and that I don’t have cancer,” said Jackie Manthorne, president and CEO of the Canadian Cancer Survivor Network. “It would be devastating to be told that my mammogram was not read correctly and to lose that sense of assurance and trust in mammography, which is our only mass breast cancer screening program in every province in Canada.”

This is not the first time that the results of mammography screenings or pathology tests have had to be reviewed:

In 2010, the College of Physicians of Quebec ordered an investigation of 15,000 mammograms performed in Montreal and Laval, which showed that thousands of Quebec women might have been given inaccurate results.

In 2005, Eastern Health Pathology Lab in Newfoundland and Labrador, faulty pathology tests over an eight-year period resulted in 400 breast cancer breast cancer patients receiving the wrong treatment; over 100 of these women died.  The resulting judicial inquiry by Justice Margaret Cameron and her subsequent report stated that Eastern Health failed patients with shoddy lab work and nearly non-existent quality controls.

In 2009, hundreds of Quebec women diagnosed with breast cancer may have received the wrong treatment because of inaccurate pathology tests.

Faulty diagnosis or incorrect pathology tests can lead to onerous consequences, from the diagnosis of cancer at a more advanced stage, resulting in increased level of treatment, to an increased risk of recurrence, or the development of metastases, where the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, which often results in a reduced quality of life and treatment which last a lifetime.

Canadians deserve better. The Canadian Cancer Survivor Network calls on provincial and territorial screening programs and hospital and cancer centres to ensure supervision and oversight of cancer screening program staff and that Canadian and provincial/territorial associations of radiologists and pathologists ensure that their members receive regular professional evaluations development opportunities.

To arrange interviews or for additional information:  Jackie Manthorne, President & CEO, Canadian Cancer Survivor Network. 613-898-1871 or 613-710-3636 or

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Albertan men and women with advanced prostate and breast cancer deserve access to bone-targeted therapies

The Canadian Cancer Survivor Network is deeply concerned that men and women living in Alberta who have advanced prostate and breast cancer that has spread to their bones do not have public access to treatments that can reduce the risk of serious bone complications.  

Men and women whose cancer has spread, or metastasised, to their bones are at risk of developing serious, debilitating complications such as fractures, spinal cord compression or the need for surgery or radiation. These complications can cause mobility issues, disability, hospitalization and even death.

To reduce the risk of developing bone complications, men and women with advanced prostate and breast cancer need a bone-targeting treatment at the earliest confirmation of metastases. Currently, the government does not pay for these treatments for patients in Alberta. However, the Government of Alberta’s introduction of Changing Our Future: Alberta’s Cancer Plan To 2030 in February 2013 means that now is the time to have a serious discussion about the importance of ensuring cancer patients in Alberta receive the same standard of care available to patients in other provinces.

Alberta is one of only two provinces, along with PEI, that does not currently provide public access to bone-targeting treatment. We believe that all patients with advanced prostate and breast cancer in Alberta deserve the same access to treatment and standard of care as patients in other provinces. The launch of the new PharmaCare program in January 2014 makes the consideration and correction of coverage issues in Alberta a timely issue right now.  Alberta Healthcare Insurance Plan must provide access to bone-targeted therapies to prevent complications that may be debilitating.

If you would like to assist us in our efforts to help men and women with advanced prostate and breast cancer receive the same evidence-based care as patients in other provinces, please contact me at

Together we can make a difference.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Precautions to Take After Being Exposed to Asbestos

If you've been following CCSN for any amount of time, you've probably amassed a considerable amount of knowledge about the health complications that can develop after asbestos exposure. However, you may also have spent a considerable amount of time racking your brain for times when you could possibly have been exposed to asbestos.

If you've identified any potential exposures, you may now be dealing with intense feelings of anxiety. You’re not alone! This is a reaction we hear often at The Mesothelioma Center.

You’ll be relieved to know that many people who are exposed to asbestos never become ill. Those who do develop asbestos-related diseases were often exposed to high quantities of the fibers for prolonged periods of time. Most people – including those who inhale one or two fibers in the home or environment – won’t have to worry about mesothelioma.

That said, certain precautions can give you peace of mind. It’s important to monitor your health so that in the rare event that a tumor does develop, your medical team will be able to make a quick diagnosis.

If you've been exposed to asbestos, we suggest that you:

• Ask your primary doctor to make a note of your exposure in your medical history. If, in the future, you note any abnormal symptoms, your medical team will know that you have a history of asbestos exposure. This insider knowledge will help them narrow down the causes of your symptoms – and hopefully catch any malignancies in their earliest stages.
• Register for respiratory screenings and other routine imaging scans. These tests can provide easy tracking of your health over time. If your doctors note a decline in lung function (or any suspicious spots inside your body), they’ll be able to immediately pursue further testing.
• Schedule a home inspection to prevent future exposure. Knowing that your home is free from asbestos hazards offers you – and your family – added peace of mind.

Faith Franz is a writer for The Mesothelioma Center. She likes to spread the word about the benefits of alternative medicine.