Less than ideal: how oncologists practice with limited drug access

J Oncol Pract. 2012 May;8(3):190-5. doi: 10.1200/JOP.2011.000337. Epub 2012 Jan 10.


Purpose: To evaluate Canadian medical oncologists' perspectives on how barriers to accessing new expensive cancer drugs have affected their practice and their opinions on the drug approval and funding processes.

Methods: Canadian medical oncologists treating colorectal cancer (CRC) were surveyed by means of a self-administered, cross-sectional survey.

Results: Of the 164 eligible oncologists, there were 68 respondents (41.4% response rate). Only 29.4% of physicians felt they had been using the ideal first-line chemotherapy regimen for patients with metastatic CRC. Although all considered bevacizumab to be a component of the ideal first-line regimen, only 18% could use bevacizumab routinely, and less than half (44.8%) always discussed its role with their patients. In terms of accessing unfunded drugs, most physicians agreed that private payment should be allowed for drugs to be delivered at their own centers (76.1%) or private infusion clinics (52.2%). Ninety-seven percent of physicians reported major concerns about the drug approval and funding processes, and 85% of physicians supported the establishment of a national drug formulary.

Conclusions: Canadian medical oncologists are struggling to provide optimal cancer care for their patients with metastatic CRC as a result of nonuniform access to preferred therapeutic drugs. In face of these challenges, physicians have had to use clinical trials and private infusion clinics and, at times, may avoid discussing drugs with limited access. Many oncologists are dissatisfied with the existing funding mechanism and approval processes and support private payment for unfunded drugs.