Alberta sees the light, while BC still in the dark on ethical treatment for
vision loss

VANCOUVER, Oct. 7 /CNW/ - This Monday the Alberta government announced the addition of Lucentis, a groundbreaking treatment for the leading cause of adult-onset blindness, to their provincial health plan. Unlike BC, Alberta has rejected the idea of also listing Avastin, a colon cancer drug that has not been tested and approved for the treatment of wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Because of the lack of proper data about Avastin, it has not been approved for use in the eye in any other Canadian province.

The Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB) is outraged that since June 1st residents in British Columbia remain stuck with an unethical government program that could deny patients' access to the best care for their eyes. The program officially includes funding for both Avastin and Lucentis but has a built-in financial incentive for doctors to use the cancer drug, Avastin, which has known safety concerns when injected into the eye. Of the two drugs funded in BC, only Lucentis has been approved by Health Canada to treat wet AMD, and only Lucentis is funded for treatment in other provinces, including Alberta.

"The BC system is deceptive, unsafe and unfair to patients. Doctors are financially motivated to use an untested drug," said Lori Fry, Vice-President, BC/Yukon Division of the CCB. "BC residents with wet AMD deserve to have the same kind of assured access to the approved therapy as is now enjoyed by residents of Alberta and most other provinces. The current BC system is a sham that simply promotes the unapproved use of Avastin. No other province sanctions the use of the unapproved and untested treatment."

Wet AMD is an eye condition that causes severe and rapid loss of central vision. It currently affects 100,000 people in Canada, and every week 60 more Canadians lose their sight because of the disease.

The CCB is urging those concerned about the issue to contact their MLA, Health Services Minister Kevin Falcon and Premier Gordon Campbell by visiting the CCB website www.ccbnational.net, to have them ensure that British Columbians with wet AMD are no longer used as guinea pigs.

The availability of Lucentis through the Alberta public drug plan means Albertans join residents of Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Yukon in being able to have ready access to the approved treatment. Unlike BC, none of those provinces reimburses the use of Avastin to treat AMD, the leading cause of adult-onset blindness.

Approved for use in Canada in 2007, Lucentis is the brand name for the drug Ranibizumab which is delivered by injection to the eye every four to six weeks. It is the first clinically proven treatment that has been shown to prevent further vision loss in 95% of people with wet AMD and, in fact, reverse vision loss for 40% of those treated.

About AMD

Nearly 300,000 Canadians suffer from wet AMD. It is anticipated that 20,000 new cases of wet AMD will be diagnosed in Canada this year alone, a number expected to double within the next 25 years. AMD is a progressive disease that causes rapid and severe central vision loss in a matter of a few weeks to months and can severely compromise a person's ability to function independently. AMD can lead to vision loss and blindness. Wet AMD is responsible for 90% of vision loss associated with AMD.

About The Canadian Council of the Blind

The Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB) was founded in 1944 by blind war veterans and graduates from schools of the blind. All officers and directors are blind or visually impaired which gives a unique sensitivity to the needs of the blind community. The CCB is a registered charity pursuant to the provisions of the Income Tax Act (Canada). The CCB has over 65 chapters across Canada and is the largest membership based organization for the blind. Recently, under changes to its new bylaws, the CCB encourages the sighted community to become members to assist in its mission to address the issues of blindness and visual impairment which affect many families in Canada. The CCB deals with the ongoing effects of blindness with specific programs to encourage active participation in local communities, education, sports and recreation and employment. The national office is located in Ottawa, Ontario. The CCB is the "Voice of the Blind(R)" in Canada. More info at: www.ccbnational.net

SOURCE THE CANADIAN COUNCIL OF THE BLIND

For further information: For further information: Lori Fry, Vice-President, BC/Yukon Division, Canadian Council of the Blind, 100 Mile House, BC, phone: (250) 395-2452; Patricia Robitaille, PR Strategies Inc., (604) 873-0080, probitaille@shaw.ca

Organization Profile

THE CANADIAN COUNCIL OF THE BLIND

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