Forum: Cancer patients can access more affordable care and financial support in public health facilities

We refer to the article by Salma Khalik, Straits Times Chief Health Correspondent, “Off-label drug kept brain cancer in man under control for a year” (June 26).

As explained earlier, the impending policy changes are helping us reduce the price of cancer drugs that pharmaceutical companies charge us. They have already started to produce encouraging results, as pharmaceutical companies lower their prices by up to 60% in some cases to get the drug on the list.

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

However, in the implementation of the new policy, we have to deal with exceptional cases, such as that of Mr. Zhang Chang Hua.

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

Compared to the $20,000 per month that Mr. Zhang would pay, this medicine is available in our public health institutions at a price significantly less than half of the declared price.

Mr. Zhang, or any private clinic patient who is currently taking treatments that are not on the cancer drug list, can consider seeking treatment at public health facilities. In addition to more affordable medications, subsidized 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 a built-in protection plan and comprehensive endorsement. According to the insurance company’s policy, Mr. Zhang’s treatment may continue to be covered by the endorsement.

Lydia Loh

Director (Financial Policy)

Health Financing Division

Ministry of Health

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