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Subsidies to be extended to more cancer drugs and patients

We fully understand the points raised by Ms Hurng Yu Hui in her letter, “Cancer care is a painful balance between cost and quality of life” (Aug 20).

The Government has accepted the MediShield Life Council’s recommendations to create a list of clinically proven and cost-effective outpatient cancer drug treatments for MediShield Life claims.

We will set more granular claim limits to provide more targeted coverage based on the cost of each treatment, and also extend subsidies to more cancer drugs and to more patients. With these changes, more patients will pay less for clinically proven and cost-effective treatments.

At the same time, by moving away from the current system, where MediShield Life claims are a flat $3,000 per month for all cancer drugs, we remove the incentives for drug companies to charge prices that maximise the claims.

This enables the Ministry of Health to negotiate with drug companies and procure cancer drugs at better prices and reduce costs for patients.

For Ms Hurng’s targeted therapy, an alternative targeted therapy that treats the cancer in a similar manner, and is cost-effective and eligible for MediShield Life claim and subsidy, is available.

Further, if the supplier of Ms Hurng’s drug is prepared to lower its prices to cost-effective levels, the drug may also in time be included in the list eligible for MediShield Life claims and subsidy.

Keeping our drug prices affordable is a constant work in progress, and will depend on public policy on subsidy and MediShield Life claims, market pricing practices, and patient preferences. There are trade-offs involved and we will continue to work on it.

Cham Dao Song

Director (Finance Policy)

Healthcare Finance Division

Ministry of Health


Forum Letter

Cancer care is a painful balance between cost and quality of life

I am a stage four lung cancer patient who has been on targeted therapy for three years.

Targeted therapy is costly but it has given me a good quality of life since my diagnosis in 2018.

I barely experience any side effects, unlike with chemotherapy. I am able to function more like a healthy individual, returning to work full-time and contributing to society.

It is disappointing to read that the Ministry of Health has decided to decrease the MediShield Life claim limit for the targeted therapy drug I was on from $3,000 to $2,000 (Move to rein in cost of cancer care to help more patients, Aug 18).

The drug is also not listed under the Medication Assistance Fund scheme, nor is it subsidised.

This drug costs close to $7,000 a month at a restructured hospital. For patients who are covered only under MediShield Life, having to fork out the $1,000 difference monthly is a burden on the finances.

Of course, the patient can choose to switch to chemotherapy, which is a much cheaper alternative. However, the patient will face debilitating side effects.

Unfortunately, I have recently moved on to traditional chemotherapy as targeted therapy has stopped working for me.

Even with this supposedly easier cocktail of chemotherapy drugs, I experienced nausea, bloating, hair loss, fatigue, neuropathy and throat inflammation.

With targeted therapy, I experienced only elevated cholesterol levels which are managed by medication.

I may not be eligible for targeted therapy now, but for others diagnosed with stage four cancer, every treatment option is vital in extending a patient’s life.

Losing one treatment option because it is unaffordable is heart-wrenching.

Hurng Yu Hui

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