Conditional approval of cancer drugs in Canada: accountability and impact on public funding

S. K. Andersen, N. Penner, A. Chambers, M. E. Trudeau, K. K.W. Chan, M. C. Cheung


Background We examined how conditional market approval of cancer pharmaceuticals by Health Canada (hc) affects public funding recommendations by the pan-Canadian Oncology Review (pcodr). We were also interested to see how often hc conditions are enforced.

Methods Health Canada and pcodr databases for 2010–2017 were analyzed for patterns in hc conditional authorization and post-authorization reviews of cancer drugs and for correlation with pcodr reimbursement recommendations.

Results Between 2010 and 2017, pcodr reviewed 105 unique drug–indication pairings; 21% (n = 22) had conditional hc authorization. In all cases, conditional authorization was given on the basis of preliminary data in a surrogate endpoint and was contingent on further data showing benefit in more robust outcome measures (for example, overall survival). Of those 22 drugs, 36% did not have updated data, 36% had updated data that met hc conditions, and 27% had data that met some, but not all, conditions. During the period considered, hc never revoked conditional authorization for failure to meet conditions. None of the 22 drugs was given an unconditional positive recommendation for public reimbursement by pcodr. A conditional recommendation was given to 11 of the drugs (50%), and reimbursement was not recommended for 6 drugs (27%) because of insufficient evidence.

Conclusions One fifth of the cancer drugs reviewed for public reimbursement in Canada were conditionally authorized by hc based on preliminary data. Conditional authorization was associated with a recommendation against public funding by pcodr. No drugs had their conditional market authorization revoked for failure to meet conditions, suggesting that a more robust hc reappraisal framework is needed.


Medical oncology; health policy; health economics; Health Canada; pcodr


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ISSN: 1198-0052 (Print) ISSN: 1718-7729 (Online)