Cancer victims get new drugs subsidies

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 July, 2011, 12:00am


About 1,000 cancer patients will get access to expensive new drugs they cannot now afford under a government subsidy scheme to be launched next month.

The HK$68 million programme, endorsed by the Community Care Fund, will subsidise the purchase of six such drugs for patients who are recommended by a doctor and pass a financial assessment. Patients suffering from lung cancer, leukaemia, colorectal cancer, renal cell carcinoma, gastrointestinal tumours, breast cancer and ovarian cancer will benefit from the programme, which will cover 92 to 95 per cent of the drug's cost, with subsidies of HK$60,000 to HK$200,000.

Lung cancer patients are expected to benefit most. Applications will be accepted from next month.

The programme is a back-up to the Samaritan Fund, which helps patients with financial difficulties to buy expensive drugs that are not on the Hospital Authority's subsidy list.

The fund does not cover some new medications, meaning patients would have to pay for the drugs.

Hospital Authority cancer consultant Dr Ashley Cheng Chi-kin said there was growing evidence that the drugs covered by the subsidies were more effective or had fewer side effects than older treatments, but there was not enough proof to put them on the regular drug list.

Authority chairman Anthony Wu Ting-yuk, who is head of the Community Care Fund's medical sub-committee, said the programme would be extended early next year by relaxing the financial criteria.

'We hope to help those who fall outside the social safety net or those within the net but have special circumstances that are not covered.'

Authority board member Dr Cheung Wai-lun said the list of medications covered by the programme would be reviewed every year.

'Eventually some drugs will be included in the regular list of drugs, so we can introduce more new medications into the programme,' he said.

While the number of beneficiaries was estimated at 1,000, Wu said that the number of patients subsidised and the sum spent on the scheme would not be limited.