New liver cancer therapy to be added to the NHI

SECOND-LINE::The NHI Administration’s Lee Po-chang said that coverage is expected to benefit up to 1,400 people and would cost NT$400m to NT$600m annually

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Jun 07, 2019 - Page 4

A second-line targeted therapy for end-stage liver cancer has been included in the National Health Insurance (NHI), National Health Insurance Administration Director-General Lee Po-chang (李伯璋) said yesterday.

Thirty to 50 percent of people with end-stage liver cancer who are receiving first-line targeted therapy still cannot be effectively cured by it and need the extra treatment, so the administration has included a second-line therapy from this month, Lee said.

Specialists suggest that medical practitioners and patients are exposed to undue stress by NHI rules that require people with liver cancer be treated locally at least three times within six months to be eligible for NHI-covered first-line targeted therapy, he said.

On the basis of consultations, the administration is to extend the time span from six months to 12, so that more people can receive NHI-covered first-line targeted therapy, Lee said.

Expanding the time span to allow coverage for first-line therapy and the inclusion of second-line treatment is expected to benefit up to 1,400 people and would cost NT$400 million to NT$600 million (US$12.7 million to US$19.1 million) per year, he said.

Taiwan Surgical Society of Gastroenterology chairperson Lee King-teh (李金德) said that people with early-stage liver cancer (stage 0 to 2) usually face surgery, but that is sometimes not suitable for people with end-stage liver cancer or when there are too many tumors.

First and second-line oral medication can inhibit the growth of blood vessels in tumors and tumor cells, delaying progression of the disease and boosting the survival rate for end-stage liver cancer, Lee King-teh said.

While the average life expectancy of a person with end-stage cancer is about six months, the use of the first and second-line therapies can extend that by 26 months on average, he said, adding that the administration’s policy is expected to significantly reduce the financial pressure on patients.

Additional reporting by CNA