New drugs to be covered by national health insurance program

09/08/2020 05:20 PM
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CNA file photo
CNA file photo

Taipei, Sept. 8 (CNA) Several new drugs used to treat different types of cancer are to be included in the national health insurance (NHI) program for the first time later this year, a government agency said on Tuesday.

In a press release, the National Health Insurance Administration (NHIA) announced that following an Aug. 20 meeting, it was decided that new medicines for treating triple-negative breast cancer, ovarian cancer, follicular lymphoma and medullary carcinoma will be covered by the program in November.

Citing the latest data compiled by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, Huang Chao-chieh (黃兆杰), deputy chief of the NHIA's Medical Review and Pharmaceutical Benefits Division, said about 2,000 triple-negative patients, or 15 percent of roughly 13,000 breast cancer patients per year, will benefit from the new oral tablet Olaparib.

In the past, triple-negative cancer can only be treated by conventional chemotherapy, Huang said.

Although the oral drug Olaparib has made it to the market in recent years, it costs at least NT$1,500 (US$50) per pill, making it out of reach for many patients, he said.

To save more lives, the NHIA decided to include the new drug in its program, ahead of Britain, Canada and Australia, Huang said.

The drug can also be used to treat late-stage ovarian cancer caused by BRCA1/2, with about 94 patients set to benefit from the measure in the first year, saving each person NT$1.7 million in treatment expenses, he said.

Meanwhile, a new medicine targeting follicular lymphoma, Copanlisib, and another to treat the rare medullary carcinoma, vandetanib, will also be covered by the NHI program, with 113 and up to 22 patients, respectively, per year set to receive the more effective treatment, he said.

In addition, rituximab, a biologic agent that can treat pemphigus vulgaris, will also be added to the program, benefiting about 600 patients suffering from the blistering autoimmune disease that affects the skin and mucous membrane.

Currently, severe pemphigus vulgaris patients can only be treated with steroids which often have noticeable side effects, Huang said.

(By Flor Wang and Chang Ming-hsuan)


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