Canadians lack confidence in access to cancer medications

Access to new treatments vital, as incidence of multiple myeloma
    continues to riseMONTREAL, Feb. 25 /CNW/ - If diagnosed with cancer today, nearly half of
Canadians (43%) feel they would not have access to all the medications needed
for treatment, according to a national survey conducted by Angus Reid. This
lack of confidence is striking, considering that close to two thirds of those
surveyed (64%) view cancer as something you can live with rather than die
from.
    Despite public opinion, however, access to new medications is not always
provided for people suffering from rare diseases, such as multiple myeloma.
There are a limited number of treatment options for people living with this
progressive and fatal blood cancer - particularly for those with advanced
stages of the disease.
    "All patients have the right to the most effective treatment recommended
by their doctor and Canadians living with multiple myeloma, especially those
who are critically ill and who do not have time to wait," said Myeloma Canada
President John Lemieux. "Immediate access to significant new therapies is
essential to giving them a chance at life," added Lemieux.
    Multiple myeloma is a rare cancer, but recent statistics indicate an
increasing incidence and younger onset of the disease.(1),(2) Of the estimated
6,000 Canadians living with multiple myeloma, approximately 1,350 will die and
2,100 new patients will be diagnosed in Canada this year.(2) Though the
statistics are grim and myeloma is regarded as incurable, recent treatment
advances continue to improve the prognosis of multiple myeloma, making it very
treatable now.
    "For patients whose disease has progressed on current or past treatments,
new treatment options are crucial in order to help these patients survive -
but there is no time to wait with this devastating disease," said Dr.
Christine Chen, hematologist from Princess Margaret Hospital. "While new
advances in the treatment of blood disorders, such as Revlimid, are helping
patients live much longer and have a better quality of life, they are not
widely accessible to patients in Canada."
    The survey shows that most of the general public is unfamiliar with
multiple myeloma. Only 15 per cent correctly identified multiple myeloma as a
blood cancer. One third (33%) of Canadians surveyed mistakenly identified
multiple myeloma as a type of skin cancer, while 36 per cent admitted to not
knowing what it is. But this cancer is all too familiar to patients like
Sheila Diprose of Calgary who was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in March of
2007.
    "It took a while for the diagnosis to sink in. The biggest thing to
accept is that they can't just cut it out of me and that it's something I have
to live with for the rest of my life," said Sheila. "Revlimid gives me another
hope to carry on; a sense of strength to keep me going. Instead of focusing on
negative things, with this drug, I will have a chance at getting my life
back."

    About the Time To Live survey

    The research was conducted by Angus Reid Strategies on behalf of Myeloma
Canada from November 14 to 16, 2008. Data was collected via an online survey
among 1002 randomly selected Canadian adults who are Angus Reid Forum
panelists. The margin of error which measures sampling variability is +/-
3.1%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted
according to the most current education, age, gender and region from Census
data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of
Canada. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

    About multiple myeloma

    Myeloma, also called multiple myeloma, is an incurable but treatable
cancer of cells in the bone marrow. It affects the production of red cells,
white cells and plasma cells, which develop into antibodies meant to help
fight infections. The disease may cause damage to bone structure, resulting in
frequent fractures. It can cause severe fatigue, recurrent infections and bone
pain. It may also prevent organs and nerves from working properly. It affects
an estimated 750,000 people worldwide, and in industrialized countries it is
being diagnosed in growing numbers and in increasingly younger people.

    Myeloma Canada

    Myeloma Canada, a non-profit organization, with registered charity status
dedicated to supporting people living with multiple myeloma, is the only
national organization exclusively devoted to serving the Canadian myeloma
community. The mission of Myeloma Canada is to: provide educational resources
and support to patients, families, and caregivers; increase awareness of the
disease; and promote improved access to new therapies, treatment options, and
health care resources. Myeloma Canada works with regional support groups and
key myeloma experts to strengthen the voice of the Canadian myeloma community.
Myeloma Canada works in close affiliation with the International Myeloma
Foundation, the world's oldest and largest myeloma organization. For more
information or to find out how you can help please visit our website at
www.myelomacanada.ca.-------------------------------------------------------------------------
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    References
    ------------------------------
    (1)National Cancer Institute. A snapshot of Myeloma. Available at:
       http://planning.cancer.gov/disease/Myeloma-Snapshot.pdf
       Accessed February 17, 2009.
    (2)Myeloma Canada: Cause and Incidence;
       http://www.myelomacanada.ca/en/incidence_prevalence.htm?t=1
       Accessed February 17, 2009.
For further information: Media Contacts: Charles Pitts, Myeloma Canada,
1-877-990-9044, cpitts@oromedia.com; Rosalind O'Connell, Hill & Knowlton
Canada, (416) 413-4773, rosalind.oconnell@hillandknowlton.ca