CNIB Applauds Common Drug Review Recommendation for Lucentis



    TORONTO, March 28 /CNW/ - Canada's Common Drug Review (CDR) announced
today its recommendation that the breakthrough treatment Lucentis be covered
under provincial and territorial health plans, potentially saving the sight of
tens of thousands of Canadians. This brings Canada one step closer to
providing all Canadians with access to the first and only treatment clinically
proven in many cases to reverse the damage caused by wet age-related macular
degeneration (AMD).
    "On behalf of CNIB and all Canadians living with AMD, I would like to
applaud the Common Drug Review for recommending Lucentis," said Jim Sanders,
President and CEO of CNIB. "Canada has just taken a step in the right
direction for vision care in this country; it's now up to individual
provincial and territorial health ministers to take the final leap."
    Although CDR's recommendation was positive, it also included suggested
restrictions including that Lucentis should not be funded in combination with
verteporfin (Visudyne) and that drug plan coverage should be limited to a
maximum of 15 vials per patient used to treat the better seeing affected eye.
CNIB understands the need for criteria to balance the economic impact of
including a treatment in government health plans, but also urges the
provincial and territorial health ministers to consider coverage of the
treatment for people who get wet AMD in both eyes when their sight can be
saved.
    "The Common Drug Review did its homework and obviously was as convinced
as we are that Lucentis is a highly effective drug with the potential to save
the Canadian health care system in both direct and indirect costs and prevent
people from needlessly going blind," said Dr. Keith Gordon, Head of Research
for CNIB. "We are very hopeful that the provinces and territories will
interpret the recommendation with an understanding that a person's sight
should be saved in both eyes."
    The CDR process was created in 2002 to assess new prescription drugs for
Canada's provincial and territorial drug plans (excluding Quebec). The role of
the CDR is to review the clinical results and cost effectiveness of
prescription drugs to provide coverage recommendations. In 90 per cent of
cases, provincial and territorial drug plans follow CDR's advice and cover the
cost of recommended drugs.
    It is now up to individual provinces and territories to take the final
step and make Lucentis available to all Canadians. Lucentis has already been
approved for reimbursement in Canada's two largest provinces: Quebec approved
the treatment in 2007, and in the fall of 2007, the Government of Ontario
placed Lucentis under its rapid review process, recognizing its potential
benefit to patients. Recently on March 13, it announced Lucentis would be
added to Ontario's public drug programs.

    About AMD:

    AMD is the leading cause of blindness in Canada, contributing
substantially to the $7.9 billion in direct and indirect costs associated with
vision loss in Canada each year. It affects more Canadians than breast cancer,
prostate cancer, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease combined. Wet AMD is the
most aggressive form of the disease, responsible for 90 per cent of the severe
vision loss associated with AMD. Most people with wet AMD lose the ability to
read, drive and see the faces of loved ones.

    About Lucentis:

    Lucentis is the only treatment clinically proven to restore vision in
many patients with wet AMD. Forty per cent of Lucentis-treated wet AMD
patients will experience a clinically significant sustained improvement in
vision (giving them back, on average, three lines on an eye chart or enough
sight to resume driving), while 95 per cent will maintain their vision.
Lucentis was approved for use in Canada by Health Canada in 2007. Lucentis is
also approved and reimbursed in the United States, Australia, the United
Kingdom, Switzerland, France and other countries around the world. For more
information about Lucentis and AMD, visit www.righttosight.ca.

    About CNIB:

    CNIB is a nationwide, community-based, registered charity committed to
public education, research and the vision health of all Canadians. CNIB
provides the services and support necessary to enjoy a good quality of life
while living with vision loss. Visit www.cnib.ca or call 1-800-563-2642 to
learn more.





For further information:

For further information: or interviews with CNIB spokespeople, media
should contact: Nick Cowling, Optimum PR, (416) 934-8011,
Nick.Cowling@cossette.com


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