Good news for Albertans in the fight against leading cause of age-related
vision loss


    
    Government of Alberta reimburses first medication to improve vision and
    restore quality of life
    
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<p>DORVAL, QC, <chron>Oct. 5</chron> /CNW Telbec/ - Alberta residents with neovascular (wet) age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of vision loss over the age of 50, have received a dose of good news with the decision by Alberta Health and Wellness to reimburse the innovative treatment Lucentis* (ranibizumab) on the <person>Alberta Blue</person> Cross insurance plan.</p>
<p>The approval of funding for Lucentis* by the Government of Alberta gives real hope for vision improvement and quality of life for these patients, for whom the diagnosis of wet AMD could previously have meant severe central vision loss and possibly even blindness in a matter of weeks to months.</p>
<p>The decision to reimburse Lucentis* is testament to the important clinical benefits of this treatment. Lucentis* was approved for use in <location>Canada</location> in <chron>June 2007</chron> and in <chron>March 2008</chron> the Common Drug Review (CDR), Canada's national drug review process, recommended that it be listed by provincial drug plans. Alberta now joins public drug plans in <location>Quebec</location>, Ontario, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, the Yukon and Newfoundland and Labrador in reimbursing Lucentis*.</p>
<p>Novartis Pharmaceuticals <location>Canada</location> Inc. continues to work with officials in the remaining provinces to ensure all Canadians with wet AMD who rely on provincial drug plans will equally have access to Lucentis*.</p>
<p>Lucentis* sets a new treatment standard for people suffering from the wet form of AMD. While earlier therapies have been able to slow the progression of vision loss, Lucentis* offers patients - for the first time - a real opportunity for statistically and clinically significant visual improvement with a proven therapy. In clinical trials, up to 40% of Lucentis*-treated patients achieved visual acuity of 20/40 or better, which is greater than the level of vision required to drive. Results from two pivotal trials show that with Lucentis*, vision is preserved in more than 90% of patients treated and even more impressive, vision was actually improved in 70% of patients.</p>
<p>Lucentis* is the first and only approved treatment clinically proven to offer wet AMD patients significant vision gains. Designed specifically for use in the eye and administered by injection into the eye, Lucentis* helps to stabilize or improve patients' vision which, in turn, can increase their independence and ability to perform activities requiring central vision such as seeing faces, reading and driving.</p>
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<p>About AMD</p>
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<p>Nearly 300,000 Canadians suffer from wet AMD. It is anticipated that 20,000 new cases of wet AMD will be diagnosed in <location>Canada</location> 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.</p>
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<p>About Lucentis*</p>
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<p>Lucentis* is recommended to be administered by intravitreal injection once a month. Treatment may be reduced to one injection every 3 months after the first three injections if monthly dosing is not feasible. Compared to monthly dosing, dosing every 3 months will lead to an approximate 5-letter (1 line) loss of visual acuity benefit, on average, over the following 9 months. Patients should be evaluated regularly.</p>
<p>Of the close to 1,500 patients who were followed through clinical trials, most reported side effects were mild to moderate and generally reversible. Serious ocular adverse events related to the injection procedure are rare. They could include inflammation of the interior of the eye, tear or detachment of the retina or traumatic cataract. In the MARINA trial, the rate of inflammation of the interior of the eye (endopthalmitis), one of the more serious potential adverse events with Lucentis* administration, was 0.05%, or 5 cases out of 10,443 total injections.</p>
<p>Lucentis* was developed by Genentech and Novartis. Genentech has the commercial rights to Lucentis* in the <location>United States</location>, while Novartis has exclusive rights in the rest of the world.</p>
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<p>About Novartis Pharmaceuticals <location>Canada</location> Inc.</p>
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<p>Novartis Pharmaceuticals <location>Canada</location> Inc., a leader in the healthcare field, is committed to the discovery, development and marketing of innovative products to improve the well-being of all Canadians. In 2008, the Company invested over <money>$96 million</money> in research and development. Novartis Pharmaceuticals <location>Canada</location> Inc. employs approximately 800 people in <location>Canada</location> and its headquarters are located in Dorval, <location>Quebec</location>. It was named one of the "50 Best Employers in <location>Canada</location> in the last three years" in 2008. For further information, please consult <a href="http://www.novartis.ca">www.novartis.ca</a>.</p>
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<p>Forward-Looking Statement</p>
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<p>The foregoing release contains forward-looking statements that can be identified by terminology such as "innovative", "the first and only", "significant", or similar expressions, or by express or implied discussions regarding potential additional marketing approvals or future sales of Lucentis*. Such forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause actual results with Lucentis* to be materially different from any future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by such statements. There can be no guarantee that Lucentis* will receive any additional marketing approvals in any other countries, or that it will reach any particular sales levels. In particular, management's expectations regarding commercialization of Lucentis* could be affected by, among other things, additional analysis of Lucentis* clinical data, new clinical data, unexpected clinical trial results, unexpected regulatory actions or delays or government regulation generally, the company's ability to obtain or maintain patent or other proprietary intellectual property protection, competition in general, increased government, industry, and general public pricing pressures, and other risks and factors referred to in the Company's current Form 20-F on file with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Should one or more of these risks or uncertainties materialize, or should underlying assumptions prove incorrect, actual results may vary materially from those anticipated, believed, estimated or expected. Novartis is providing the information in this press release as of this date and does not undertake any obligation to update any forward-looking statements contained in this press release as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.</p>
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    * Lucentis is a trademark of Genentech, Inc., used under permission by
        Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc.
    

For further information: For further information: Julie Holroyde, Hill and Knowlton, Mobile: (416) 254-5300, julie.holroyde@hillandknowlton.ca; Sabrina Tremblay, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc., Mobile: (514) 880-9766, sabrina.tremblay@novartis.com


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