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Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis


CHEPA researchers engaging Canadians to better inform cancer drug funding decisions

20 Jan 2016

CHEPA faculty member Julia Abelson is a principal investigator on a new national initiative to engage Canadians in order to better inform the decisions made about cancer drug funding.

The research, funded by the Canadian Centre for Applied Research in Cancer Control (ARCC), also involves the participation of researchers at the McMaster Health Forum, including John Lavis and Mike Wilson, who are also members of CHEPA.

In announcing the $800,000 grant, the ARCC noted that although new therapies have resulted in health gains in the treatment of cancer, drug expenditures for cancer treatment have risen faster than in other areas of health care, leading to concerns among policy makers and health care providers that the high costs for new cancer treatments might not be justified by the “often small increase in health benefit they provide over less expensive drugs.”

Increasingly, the ARCC says, “health policy makers are turning to the public for guidance in developing solutions to policy dilemmas like this.”

In 2014, Dr. Stuart Peacock, who is co-director of the ARCC, led a public deliberation event in British Columbia on the topic of decision-making for funding for cancer drugs. The new research project, entitled Development of a pan-Canadian framework of public values and priorities for integration into cancer drug funding decision-making, builds on that event and includes Peacock as a principal investigator, along with co-PIs Abelson and ARCC investigator Michael Burgess, supported by researchers from the McMaster Health Forum.

The team will be responsible for engaging Canadians on their priorities for cancer drug funding decisions in order to “generate guidance and recommendations from deliberative public engagement events to inform cancer drug funding decisions within different provincial jurisdictions, and to identify common guidance across provinces.”

Public deliberation events will be held this spring at the provincial level in Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec (one in English and one in French), and a pan-Canadian panel will meet in Hamilton in late September.

“This project is an important step towards identifying better decision-making models for cancer drug funding, which will incorporate the best-available evidence as well as the priorities and values of Canadian citizens,” said Abelson. “Making fair decisions about funding cancer drugs in Canada will require making adjustments to how judgments are made."

The public deliberation events will lead researchers to develop:

  • A set of recommendations from each event to guide cancer drug funding decisions within the different provinces
  • A synthesis of recommendations and guidance from across the provincial jurisdictions, including areas of agreement as well as topics of persistent disagreement
  • The development of tools and strategies to help support provincial funding decisions on cancer drugs

The ARCC is funded by the Canadian Cancer Society. Information about the deliberative events will be put on the website.


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