Singapore: Ministry of Health announces transitional support for cancer patients

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In brief

On 2 September 2022, the Singapore Ministry of Health (MOH) announced that additional transitional support will be provided to cancer patients with changes introduced to the financing regime of cancer drugs.  

To enhance the sustainability of cancer drug spending, the MOH had previously, in August 2021, established a Cancer Drug List (CDL) of clinically proven and more cost-effective treatments, accompanied with changes to MediShield Life, MediSave and Integrated Shield Plan (“IP“) coverage.

Subsidies of clinically effective and cost effective cancer drugs will, with effect from 1 September 2022, be extended through the Medication Assistance Fund at Public Healthcare Institutions.

Additional transitional support will also be implemented to cushion the impact of cancer drug spending for patients with IPs that currently cover their treatments and patients with MediShield Life only.

With the introduction of more subsidies and incentives for patients to use drugs on the CDL, the Singapore government is now better placed to negotiate better prices for cancer drugs, as cancer drug companies may wish for their cancer drugs to be included on the CDL.

The additional transitional support provided would also allow close to 90% of the subsidised patients to have their bills in relation to cancer treatments almost fully covered by subsidies and MediShield Life. 

Background

In Singapore, the cancer drug financing regime mainly consists of four pillars: (i) direct government subsidies (through schemes like the Medication Assistance Fund), (ii) MediSave (a compulsory individual medical savings account scheme), (iii) MediShield Life (a basic health insurance plan for Singaporeans and Permanent Residents), and (iv) IP (an optional health coverage provided by private insurance companies).

Amidst rising costs for cancer drug therapies, a Cancer Drug Committee (“Committee“) was appointed to ensure the long term sustainability of drug financing. Having reviewed the financing regime of cancer drugs in other countries, the Committee observed that national funding schemes tend to only cover drugs that meet the requisite standards of safety, quality and efficacy and that are cost-effective. In other words, drugs that are not cost-effective would not receive any funding.

Overview of CDL and revisions to the cancer drug financing regime

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