The cost of a drug to treat kidney cancer will be subsidized by the government from this month, which will benefit about 100 patients a year, the Bureau of National Health Insurance said yesterday.
Considering the price of the drug everolimus and its ability to extend life expectancy, the bureau has decided to subsidize its cost, said Shen Mao-ting (沈茂庭), director of the bureau’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Section.
Everolimus, a new drug for patients suffering from advanced kidney cancer, is one of 15 cancer drugs funded by the government.
The medicine will be given as a second-line treatment for late stage kidney cancer patients for whom first-line treatment with sunitinib or sorafenib has failed, the director said.
A full treatment of everolimus costs about NT$580,000 (US$18,100) per patient, the bureau said in a press statement, adding that an additional NT$60 million per year would be allocated by the government to cover the cost of the drug.
Although the drug is expensive, it can help to extend life expectancy by an average of 13.2 months, said Ou Yen-chuan (歐宴泉), a doctor at Taichung Veterans General Hospital, citing a study of 11 patients on everolimus at his hospital.
At present, there are about 50 patients in Taiwan on everolimus, he said.
He said that although the side-effects of the drug are considered acceptable, patients with chronic liver disease or poor lung function should have an evaluation before going on the medication.