Action against waiting time for cancer medicines

Norwegians spend less antibiotics last year cancer medicinesDrugstore.Photo: Berit Roald / NTB scanpix

Great commitment towards action against waiting time for improved cancer medicines

The waiting time for new drugs is unreasonably long, according to Norwegian cancer patients. They require that new cancer medicines become cheaper and available to all.


On August 28 cancer patients and their families demonstrates outside the parliament. The commitment is great, according to the initiators.

– The demonstration is both a criticism of, and a prayer to Norwegian politicians to take this seriously. We can not accept that patients die because of bureaucracy and political dilly dallying, says relative and organizer, Finn Helge Quist.

The demonstrators believe that waiting for life-prolonging cancer medicine in Norway is unreasonably long and that many medicines have already been approved and are in use in our neighbouring countries.

Does not agree with the criticism

The Directorate of Health has a committee dubbed ‘New Methods’, which determines whether new methods and medications should be used in Norway. The forum consists of the leaders of the four regional health authorities. Health North disagree with the notion that Norway is taking too long to approve medicines, and believes that the reason for the criticism is due to the non-introduction of drugs.

– The ‘New Methods’ system ensures that all patients in Norway have access to  improved treatments. Thereby it is documented that the method has effect and has value for both the patients and the community, says CEO of Helse Nord RHF, Geir Tollåli.

Tollåli refutes that Norway is lagging behind when it comes to the introduction of drugs and points out that Norway, according to a survey done by the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations, is the country where the fewest people die of cancer.

The Wallet decides

When the safety and efficacy of a drug is documented in the EU, it is permitted to market and take the medication in use at private and public hospitals throughout the EEA.

But while private operators can offer the drugs right away, public hospitals must wait until the authorities gives the go ahead. In Norway, this is entails the Norwegian Directorate’s ‘New Methods’ and the Norwegian Medicines Agency.

Public handling can in some cases take up to one and a half to two years, according to concern reports from Norwegian cancer doctors.

Finn Helge Qvist therefore believes that the long waiting time in practical terms entail that the wallet determines who gets the best treatment.

– Nobody wants a system where people with money and knowledge can get the best treatment at private hospitals, while patients in the public health care system are at risk of dying, he says.

-Need to prioritize new cancer medicines

Secretary General of the Cancer Society, Anne Lise Ryel, believes that cancer treatment in Norway is good, but says the ‘New Methods’ system does not work optimally.

– In the Norwegian Health Barometer 2017, seven out of ten in responded that access to new cancer medicines is what should be prioritized – wherever you live and who ever you are. Therefore, politicians must prioritize efforts to make new medicines cheaper and more accessible faster, says Ryel.

Private offers are a valuable addition to the public in many areas, she believes.

– But not when it comes to serious and fatal diseases like cancer. Therefore, the public needs to be geared up, says Ryel.

Always room for improvement

State Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Care Services, Frode Hestnes, believes there is always room for improvement in treatment time and agrees with Quist that it is difficult for cancer patients when the assessment of drugs takes too long.

– The Norwegian Medicines Agency and the National Institute of Public Health work on streamlining methodological assessments, but it is not enough for public agencies to work fast. In many cases, the pharmaceutical industry also uses a long time to provide the necessary documentation. If we are to improve on this, there are several parties that must contribute, says Hestnes.

Figures from the Norwegian Medicines Agency show that 45 medicines have been introduced since ‘New Methods’ was introduced in 2013.


© NTB Scanpix / Norway Today