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"Doctors push to get breast cancer drug in N.S."

Halifax Chronicle Herald

Halifax Chronicle Herald

08 Jun 2022

Category: Pharmaceutical

Rating: (3 stars)

what they said (Hover the mouse cursor over underlined words for more info)

Oncologists in Halifax are taking steps to ensure a new treatment for early-stage breast cancer is available to eligible patients as soon as possible.

Last month the findings of two large trials of Herceptin, a drug that is already used to slow the spread of disease in women with advanced breast cancer, were announced at a meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncologists.

The studies demonstrated that when used with chemotherapy after surgery to remove a breast or lump, the drug can significantly improve a woman's chance of survival and reduce recurrence of the disease.

The non-profit breast cancer information website reported researchers found that after four years of treatment, 15 per cent of women who received Herceptin and chemotherapy had their cancer return, compared with 33 per cent of those who only had chemotherapy.

The original article can found in the Media Doctor archives.

how did it rate? (more information)

Criteria Rating
Total Score 5 of 9
Availability of Treatment Satisfactory (?)
Costs of Treatment Satisfactory (?)
Disease Mongering Satisfactory (?)
Evidence Not Satisfactory (?)
Harms of Treatment Not Satisfactory (?)
Novelty of Treatment Satisfactory (?)
Quantification of Benefits of Treatment Satisfactory (?)
Quantification of Harms of Treatment Not Applicable
Relies on Press Release Not Applicable
Sources of Information Not Satisfactory (?)
Treatment Options Not Satisfactory (?)

what we said (Hover the mouse cursor over underlined words for more info)

Unfortunately, this article only reports the relative benefits of the drug in question (Herceptin) and gives no sense of the potential harms involved with treatment. It is largely an article dealing with the demands of physicians in Nova Scotia to get the drug for their breast cancer patients, but the article does not indicate whether the quoted spokespeople have conflicts of interest.

While it is legitimate to discuss the politics of coverage for very expensive drugs, this should be done in the context of a proper explanation of the science on which the drug coverage is based. In the case of Herceptin, there are no clear descriptions of the absolute benefits and harms associated with the treatment, nor is there a discussion of the length of the study periods upon which the funding decisions will be made.

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