Innovation matters only if it helps those in need

As an innovative pharmaceutical & diagnostics company, we bring Canadians treatments in ophthalmology, neuroscience, oncology, and rare diseases. Our scientific understanding in each of these areas is evolving, and we must work across our healthcare systems to translate these scientific breakthroughs into meaningful change for patients and families. Meaningful change can be a lot of things, but to many it simply means being able to access and benefit from new discoveries as soon as possible, without compromising safety. 

Recently, in collaboration with payers and health technology assessment (HTA) bodies, it took 609 days for one of Roche Canada's cancer treatments to move from Health Canada approval through to being accessible in the public healthcare system for 99% of Canadians. But, we know we can do better. Patients in most peer countries get access to approved new medicines over one year sooner than Canadians1. Patients need us to do better. They need more timely access to the treatments right for them.

Let’s take lung cancer as an example. We know the prognosis after being diagnosed with lung cancer has changed substantially in recent years. In fact, the 5-year net survival rate was estimated to be 17% in 2018, whereas in 2022, 37% of those living with lung cancer in Canada were more than five years past their initial diagnosis2. While our collective understanding of lung cancer and how to treat it has changed, patients still face barriers in receiving the right treatment for them. 

About half of all lung cancers are diagnosed at stage IV, meaning they are diagnosed at a relatively later stage3. These patients simply cannot afford to wait through long delays to access treatment. Imagine what the net-survival rate could look like in five or ten years if more patients had more timely access to the innovative treatments they need. It is only through tackling barriers together, like those related to screening, high quality testing, and ensuring equitable, timely access, that we will ensure the right diagnosis and treatment, as early as possible.

We can look at another example, in lymphoma (or blood cancer). Our understanding of the many subtypes of lymphoma is growing and evolving. That means treatment and prognosis can vary greatly among those diagnosed, and along the various stages of their disease. For lymphoma, there are over 80 subtypes each with their own clinical course4

In this case, it is critical to ensure approved treatments for lymphoma are rapidly accessible to these patients, when they need them. In a whitepaper from Lymphoma Canada they share that, “Many cancer patients also require more than one treatment option, highlighting the need for the continual development and rapid access to therapies specific to cancer subtype and stage of disease”. So, a wide range of therapies need to be accessible not only for the diverse types of lymphoma patients, but for each individual patient as well, so that suitable treatments are available to them along the course of their disease. New treatments continue to be developed for lymphoma patients, so how do we make sure they are accessible to patients, as quickly as possible? 

Above all, we must act. 

In the same Lymphoma Canada white paper, there are several recommendations on how we could evolve our regulatory review, health technology assessment (HTA) processes, and leverage the data and real-world evidence available to us to help us better accelerate access for lymphoma patients in Canada. 

Some of the recommendations are: 

  • Increase the transparency for review procedures and actions to develop more streamlined processes that meet target timelines, 

  • Increase patient and clinician feedback opportunities through all levels of evaluation, and

  • To provide support to patients that need to travel to access treatments that are not yet available in their province. 

These examples highlight the tangible ways we can improve the speed and accessibility of innovative treatments in Canada, if there is a willingness and commitment to act. 

At Roche, we are dedicated to collaborating with stakeholders early on to address any challenges they may encounter in ensuring patient access to our innovative solutions. By doing so, we aim to act as a partner, not only a provider. 

We frequently work closely with healthcare stakeholders at every stage to ensure patient access to our medicines in Canada, including through both public and private drug plans. In 2022, Roche Canada made 99 submissions to public plans and 71 submissions to private plans nationwide. We recognize that our expertise and commitment to collaboration will be critical in closing the gap between regulatory approval and the timely availability of essential treatments for patients.

As we look at the healthcare innovations of today and tomorrow, it is not hard to imagine that we may be faced with a healthcare landscape that demands more from us - from all of us - than ever before. Roche Canada is committed to collaborating with other stakeholders - including policymakers, healthcare providers, payers, patients and families - to achieve a future where healthcare innovations are embraced by and delivered within a sustainable and resilient healthcare system. 

References

1.Innovative Medicines Canada. Access to Medicine. Accessed October 23, 2023.  

2.Canadian Cancer Society. Canadian Cancer Statistics. Accessed October 23, 2023.

3. Statistics Canada. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Canada. Accessed October 23, 2023.

4.Lymphoma Canada. 2021 Update on Accessing Innovative Cancer Therapies in Canada. Accessed October 23, 2023.   

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