Cancer drugs often delayed

Canada’s organization in charge of reviewing cancer drugs often delays approvals while patients suffer and race against the clock, according to a recent study by the Fraser Institute.

All new oncology drugs should first receive approval from the pan-Canadian Oncology Drug Review (pCODR) before being approved by any province’s public insurance program. According to pCODR, its drug review process takes between five and eight months to complete. But some reviews take up to 10 months, says the report Has pCODR Improved Access to Oncology Drugs?

Jurisdictions individually accept or ignore pCODR’s recommendations before deciding whether the drugs will be covered by their public insurance programs, which could lead to uneven drug access across the country. The study gives the example of the late Kimm Fletcher, an Ontario brain cancer patient who unsuccessfully lobbied to Ontario to cover Avastin, a drug covered for brain cancer treatment in three other provinces.

Meet an Advisory Board Member

  • Marilee Mark, vice-president, market development, group benefits, Sun Life Financial

What do you like the most about working in the benefits industry?

One of the things that I love most about this industry is the opportunity to see a direct connection between what we do and the customers we serve every day. Retirement savings and health benefits are a key offering of employers and highly valued and utilized by employees. The opportunity to help build a healthier Canada—one organization and one individual at a time—is truly inspirational. It’s also a very collaborative industry. Over the course of my career, I’ve had the opportunity to work with and learn from so many creative and knowledgeable people.

What do you see as the biggest future trends in the benefits space?

Demographic diversity in the workplace is driving a need to provide a more personalized approach to benefits. Offering a broader range of voluntary benefits is an effective way to meet that need. Technology will continue to rapidly change how we communicate and enable the delivery of a broader range of services. I also think we have reached a turning point in broadening the focus from managing the cost of benefits to prevention by promoting organizational, physical and mental health.

What’s your favourite indulgence?

It’s difficult to pick just one! I’d have to say that sunrises and sunsets are a personal passion. Watching the sunset over the water with friends and a glass of good wine…does it get any better?
The average time from pCODR recommendation to provincial approval is longest in Newfoundland and Labrador (366 days), followed by New Brunswick (339 days), Prince Edward Island (309 days), Manitoba (249 days), Nova Scotia (218 days), British Columbia (197 days), Alberta (183 days), Saskatchewan (154 days) and Ontario (150 days). The study recommends that provinces approve new oncology drugs within 120 days of any pCODR recommendation.

“While it’s important for regulators to understand the risks and benefits of new oncology drugs, it’s unacceptable for an inefficient government bureaucracy to contribute to drug approval delays,” says Nigel Rawson, author of the study and a Fraser Institute senior fellow. “If pCODR—which is funded by taxpayers—does not improve access to new oncology medicines, it’s fair to ask why the organization exists.”

Global assets bounce back

The global asset management industry saw its most robust recovery in 2013 since the financial meltdown, but “disruptive trends” are on the horizon, according to a Boston Consulting Group (BCG) report.

Assets under management around the world posted a second consecutive year of solid growth in 2013, hitting a record US$68.7 trillion, according to the study Global Asset Management 2014: Steering the Course to Growth.

Industry profits in absolute terms reached US$93 billion. Profits as a percentage of net revenues increased, too—from 37% in 2012 to 39% in 2013, compared with a high of 41% before the crisis.

The report notes that the main factor behind asset growth continues to be strong equity markets, rather than net new asset flows. In 2013, net new flows amounted to 1.6% of prior-year assets under management. Although that was the strongest figure since the crisis, new flows remain a small part of total growth, according to the study.

The growth of managed assets varied across the world last year. Expansion was uneven among different emerging markets—it slowed in some and advanced in others. In many developed economies, grwoth also gathered speed.

The report warns that to secure growth in the future, asset managers need to navigate five “disruptive trends”: regulatory change; the digital and data revolution; more demanding investors with a growing preference for non-traditional assets; new competitors providing non-traditional assets; and globalization. The report notes that some of these trends—such as greater competition and more demanding customers—are raising service expectations, so asset managers need to move away from selling products toward solving client problems.

Market Watch

SUN LIFE ASSURANCE COMPANY OF CANADA has partnered with McKesson Canada to launch the Sun Life Preferred Pharmacy Network (PPN), comprising more than 1,500 pharmacies across Canada (outside Quebec). The PPN aims to provide lower overall costs on specialty drugs as well as access to medication counselling, home delivery of prescriptions and chronic disease management programs. It will be available to employees who are covered under a Sun Life group benefits plan and use their pay-direct drug card for specialty medications.

CERIDIAN’S LifeWorks employee assistance program (EAP) now offers video counselling for employees who are unable to attend in- person sessions. The offering is accessible to couples, families, partners or spouses, and children of employees of eligible EAP participants. Ceridian’s video counselling is available in both Canada and the U.S.

ECKLER LTD. recently launched Guided Outcomes (GO), a DC plan management tool to help employees set and achieve a realistic target retirement income. GO is able to set a unique target for each employee without the employee providing input. The tool offers three levels of engagement: Do it for me, Help me do it and Let me do it. For sponsors, GO offers the ability to model plan design changes in real time using aggregated member data as well as a user-friendly way to analyze plans and identify trends.

VANGUARD INVESTMENTS CANADA INC. has introduced five new equity Canada-domiciled exchange-traded funds (ETFs) on the Toronto Stock Exchange: Vanguard FTSE Canada All Cap Index ETF, with an annual management fee of 0.12%; Vanguard FTSE Developed ex North America Index ETF (0.28%); Vanguard U.S. Dividend Appreciation Index ETF (CAD-hedged) (0.28%); Vanguard U.S. Dividend Appreciation Index ETF (0.28%); and Vanguard U.S. Total Market Index ETF (0.15%).

UNIGESTION, the Geneva-based boutique institutional asset manager, recently launched its first Canadian-domiciled fund. The Unigestion Global Equity Fund will use an active risk management strategy designed to produce steady returns and aims to minimize total risk while achieving a higher return than market capitalization- weighted indexes.


Benefits & Pension Summit
Sept. 17, 2014
Fairmont Waterfront Hotel, Vancouver

This unique educational event offers presentations, case studies and in-depth panel discussions to provide delegates with the information they need to reduce costs, create solutions and improve their workforce. The summit has two separate tracks, group benefits and DC, allowing delegates to customize their conference experience based on their areas of interest. Sessions cover a wide range of subjects, from the legal implications of managing mental health in the workplace, to retirement planning in a challenging world and issues surrounding the decumulation phase of DC plans.

This event is designed for senior-level personnel within plan sponsor organizations in both the public and private sectors.

Register now at

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