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Cancer patients can access more affordable care and financial support at public healthcare institutions

We refer to Straits Times senior health correspondent Salma Khalik’s article, “Drug used off-label has kept man’s brain cancer under control for a year” (June 26).

As explained before, the impending policy changes help us lower the price of cancer drugs that pharmaceutical companies charge us. They have already started to produce encouraging results as pharmaceutical companies are lowering prices by as much as 60 per cent in some cases in order for the drug to be listed.

We anticipate that thousands of current and future patients will benefit from having more drugs at better prices.

However, in implementing the new policy, we need to address exceptional cases, like that of Mr Zhang Chang Hua.

Mr Zhang was prescribed a drug called dabrafenib that is effective for treating certain cancers, but we have not received evidence it is clinically and cost-effective for brain cancer. We are glad to hear that Mr Zhang seems to have responded well to this drug.

In comparison to the $20,000 a month that Mr Zhang is reported to be paying, this drug is available at our public healthcare institutions at substantially less than half the reported price.

Mr Zhang, or any patients at private clinics who are currently undergoing non-Cancer Drug List treatments, can consider seeking care at public healthcare institutions. Besides more affordable drugs, subsidised patients can also access financial support such as Medication Assistance Fund Plus and MediFund, or appeal to use more MediSave.

We also note that Mr Zhang has an Integrated Shield Plan and a full rider. Depending on the policy of the insurance company, Mr Zhang’s treatment may continue to be covered by the rider.

Lydia Loh

Director (Finance Policy)

Healthcare Finance Division

Ministry of Health

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