Pharmaceutical News
Is co-payment for new cancer drugs feasible?

Reported by Lee Shu-Jen and Chiang Hui-Chun from Taipei

As the new oral drugs for hepatitis C are soon to be available under the NHI, many cancer patients are still waiting in agony for new cancer treatments to be included in the co-payment scheme.  Dr Lee Po-Chang, the General Director of the NHIA, conceded that there have been no consensuses on this issue yet due to NHI’s financial constraint.

Dr Wang Cheng-Hsu, the President of the Hope Foundation for Cancer Care, pointed out that it is heartless for the NHIA to deny cancer patients the public funded new cancer treatments.  Many patients are forced to give up their hope.

Dr Wang pointed out the necessity of implementing co-payment for new cancer drugs.  The government should focus on patients’ needs rather than on financial concerns.  In fact, new cancer drugs can significantly reduce the overall cost of follow-up treatments, said Dr Wang.

For example, according to the NHI regulations, Herceptin is available only for breast cancer patients whose cancer cells have not yet spread to lymph despite the fact that Herceptin is effective in preventing relapse for such patients.  Yet, the treatment cost makes the drug beyond the reach of most patients.

Gloria Lin, the President of the Taiwan Association of Cancer Patients, expressed that most patients understand that the NHI is not able to reimburse every cancer drug.  However, the NHI resources can be used more fairly; and, “co-payment” is a feasible approach.  She suggested that the NHIA should run a pilot scheme for 2 to 3 years and cover 60-70% of the cost.  The rest will be paid by patients or by private health insurance policies.

Teng Xi-Hua, the spokesperson of the NHI Supervision Alliance, had different opinions.  She reckoned that the financial burden on patients is still too heavy under the co-payment scheme.  Many patients may have to take loans as a last resort in order to survive.  Furthermore, there is no legal basis to support the co-payment scheme. 

Janice Chen, the Pharmacy Director of the KFCC, expressed that immunotherapy is a trend of cancer treatments.  However, not any immunotherapy is currently covered by the NHI, because new drugs, though effective, cost millions.  Taiwan should implement the Health Technology Assessment (HTA) to help the government make scientific decisions and persuade patients to opt for co-payment.  This will prevent the waste of healthcare resources.

【2017-02-13/ United Daily】