ACE unveils burden of disease placed on Aboriginal Canadians

    VANCOUVER, Feb. 14 /CNW/ - Arthritis Consumer Experts (ACE) today called
attention to the growing crisis of arthritis in Canada's aboriginal
    "Aboriginal Canadians are affected by arthritis at a rate significantly
higher than those in non-aboriginal populations in Canada," said Cheryl Koehn,
president of ACE. "19% of Aboriginal people living off-reserve report having
arthritis. If the Aboriginal population had the same age composition as the
overall Canadian population, this rate would be 27%."
    Koehn noted that arthritis occurring in Aboriginal people is more
debilitating, and more likely to be life-threatening than arthritis in
non-aboriginals. The most serious forms of arthritis - the inflammatory,
autoimmune types of the disease - are far more prevalent in aboriginal
communities. These diseases, if left untreated, can often make it impossible
for an individual to work and contribute as a productive member of society.
    "Though data are not available for First Nations people living
on-reserve, we know that for those living off-reserve the prevalence of
serious inflammatory arthritis is about 5%. This compares to 1% of the total
population of Canada", Koehn explained.
    Significantly higher rates of arthritis, in the context of poverty and
other health concerns facing Aboriginal Canadians, are cause for great concern
for health professionals who work in Aboriginal communities.
    These concerns are compounded by the fact that many Aboriginal Canadians
cannot access the medications their specialists are prescribing for their
arthritis, as the medication reimbursement coverage provided by the federal
Non-Insured Health Benefit (NIHB) plan is some of the most restrictive in
    Dr. Christine Peschken, Assistant Professor, Departments of Medicine and
Community Health Sciences, University of Manitoba, stated, "Biologic response
modifiers, used in combination with other medications are the current gold
standard in treatment for moderate to severe inflammatory arthritis.
Tragically, First Nations and Inuit people, who have a higher burden of
arthritis than other Canadians, and who are supposed to be covered by the
NIHB, do not have reimbursement access to the full range of biologic response
modifiers, or have to fail more medications compared to non-First Nations
people prior to accessing them, resulting in delayed treatment. Depending on
their type of disease, First Nations people may have no access at all. This is
medically and morally unacceptable."
    Dr. Peschken explained that in First Nations and Inuit people with
rheumatoid arthritis, the NIHB dictates which biologic response modifier a
person is able to access, rather than allowing the physician and patient to
choose the best of the three available based on the patient's disease, ability
to self-administer the medication, cultural beliefs, and a host of other
considerations. For those living with ankylosing spondylitis and psoriatic
arthritis, the NIHB allows no choice at all as they have refused to place them
on the list for reimbursement in any way - in effect, creating a class of
second-class citizens within the community.
    "What is happening to Aboriginal Canadians with arthritis is a tragedy
that must be addressed immediately," said Koehn. "It is the right of every
Canadian, regardless of their culture or place of residence, to access our
universal public healthcare system."

    About ACE

    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, and by an advisory board
comprised of leading scientists, medical professionals and informed arthritis

For further information:

For further information: Quincey Kirschner, (778) 847-9793,

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