12/27/2012 08:08 EST | Updated 02/26/2013 05:12 EST

Expansion of P.E.I. kidney drug coverage falls short

The P.E.I. government has added a third kidney cancer drug to its high-cost drug subsidy program, but remains the only province not funding a second-round option.

Kidney Cancer Canada is applauding P.E.I.'s decision to subsidize Votrient, which costs about $85,000 a year per patient. Votrient is one of the first options for patients immediately after their diagnosis.

Kidney Cancer Canada chair Deb Makens said it's good to have more choice because these drugs have different side effects, but Makens also wants P.E.I. to fund the next level of drugs, drugs prescribed after the effectiveness of the first-round drugs wear off, and tumours start growing again.

P.E.I. is the only province that doesn't help pay for Afinitor, a follow-up drug that costs around $70,000 a year per patient.

"We see that as fundamentally unjust, that the patient in P.E.I. gets one shot, and one shot only," said Makens.

"They make their choice of their drug and if it doesn't work they're completely out and essentially what they'd be offered is palliative care."

In an email to CBC News, the Health Department said Afinitor isn't funded in the province because a national committee said several years ago the drug is too expensive to be cost effective. The nine other provinces, said Makens, have ignored that recommendation and fund it.

"Is it fair for those patients and their families (in P.E.I.) individually to go bankrupt?" asked Makens.

Makens noted there would be very few patients that would require treatment with Afinitor, and a program to help pay for it would not be costly.

For mobile device users:Should the P.E.I. government cover the costs of the kidney cancer drug Afinitor?