Three Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators yesterday urged the Department of Health (DOH) and the Bureau of National Health Insurance (BNHI) to cover the cost of target therapy for breast cancer patients in the initial stages of the illness.
KMT Legislator Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順) told a press conference that breast cancer had become more and more common among young and middle-aged women, causing a great burden to patients’ families and society as a whole.
Although target therapy has proven effective in lowering the mortality rate of such cancer by 33 percent, the National Health Insurance only covers the cost of the therapy after a patient’s cancer transfers to other organs, Huang said.
The regulation has prevented numerous patients who are unable to afford the treatment from pursuing therapy, she said.
Information from the DOH shows that breast cancer patients receiving the therapy usually need to go through 12 courses of treatment at a cost of NT$1.1 million (US$31,680) a year.
Covering the cost of the therapy in the initial stages of the cancer would benefit about 1,200 breast cancer patients in the nation every year and cost about NT$900 million a year, KMT Legislator Yang Chiung-ying (楊瓊瓔) said.
Chang Tsai-wang (張財旺), a breast surgeon at National Cheng Kung University Hospital, said a number of clinical trials abroad had shown that the therapy might be effective in lowering the risk of breast cancer transfer by 52 percent and the mortality rate by 33 percent.
“It is unreasonable for the National Health Insurance not to cover the therapy for breast cancer patients until their illness is terminal,” Chang said.
In response, Yang Hui-fen (楊慧芬), director of the DOH’s National Health Insurance Task Force, said medical experts at the BNHI still needed to conduct a clinical economic evaluation and clinical tests to determine whether the National Health Insurance should cover the therapy as suggested by the legislators.
“The DOH respects the opinions of the experts,” Yang said.
Shih Ju-liang (施如亮), a section chief at the BNHI, promised at the conference to communicate the legislators’ suggestions to her superiors at the bureau.