Disparities in Access Give Rise to Possible Human Rights Violations
OTTAWA, Jan. 21 /CNW/ - Arthritis Consumer Experts (ACE) today unveiled
their national report card, comparing and grading provinces across Canada on
how well their residents are able to access medically necessary arthritis
"The report card came about because of the huge disparity in what is
available to people with arthritis across the country," said Cheryl Koehn,
President of ACE. "Arthritis is arthritis. When it's bad, it's bad. It doesn't
matter where you live."
Koehn noted that, despite misperceptions, arthritis often impacts young
people in the prime of their lives, contributing vastly to work disability and
other overall costs to the public system. Several available treatments, if
made widely available across Canada, can now halt disease and bring patients
back to work, allowing them to contribute as productive members of society.
"When you're told as a community that treatments that have been peer
reviewed, approved by the Common Drug Review, and frequently recommended as
medically necessary by physicians are not available to you, yet patients
sitting next to you with cancer or HIV/AIDS are getting state of the art
treatment, it makes you feel valueless," said Koehn.
Arthritis research in Canada receives a disproportionately low amount of
funding, based on the over 4.5 million Canadians that suffer from the disease.
Medical professionals warn that the increasing burden cannot be ignored.
"One in ten doctor visits are a result of arthritis or a major muscular
skeletal problem, yet less than two per cent of research funds are directed
toward this disease," said Dr. John Esdaile, Scientific Director of the
Arthritis Research Centre of Canada. "The true cost of arthritis is estimated
by the Canadian government at 14 billion dollars, which is completely out of
line with the small percentage spent on understanding how to decrease the
growing burden on our health care system."
Esdaile noted that many treatments deemed medically necessary by
physicians cannot be accessed by patients.
"Patients with money can access treatments that will give them their
lives back," said Esdaile. "Oftentimes, if these same patients rely on the
health care system, we as physicians must tell them that the treatments aren't
covered, and essentially that they can't have their lives back."
The disparity noted by the medical and patient communities in Canada are
a growing concern from a human rights perspective. A lack of access to
treatment could give rise to a complaint as a result of discrimination based
"The risk around arthritis from a human rights perspective is significant
from both the perspective of government and private employers," said Hugh
O'Reilly, a Toronto lawyer specializing in benefits and human rights law.
"This disease is debilitating, and if not treated in a timely manner, a person
will suffer a permanent physical loss. That leads to an enormous risk for a
human rights case being brought forward."
Should such a case come forward, provincial governments and private
employers providing drug plans for employees would be at risk of violation.
"Arthritis is the Rosa Parks of diseases. People with arthritis have been
sitting at the back of the bus for a long time, and today is the day to change
that," concluded Koehn.
Arthritis Consumer Experts (ACE) is a national organization that provides
research-based information and education to Canadians with arthritis. The
organization helps to empower people living with all forms of arthritis to
take control of their disease and to take action in health care and research
decision making. ACE is led by people with arthritis and its activities are
guided by a strict set of guiding principles, set out by an advisory board
comprised of leading scientists, medical professionals and informed arthritis
ATTENTION BROADCAST MEDIA
A B-Roll will also be available via the coordinates below:
Jan. 21, 1:30-2:00 PM ET
Anik F2 C
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For further information:
For further information: Quincey Kirschner, (778) 847-9793,