Ontario second province to make new drug available to fight largest cause of blindness



    Lucentis will be added to provincial drug formulary this month

    TORONTO, March 13 /CNW/ -

    NEWS

    Ontarians suffering from the leading cause of blindness in Canada will
now have access to the new prescription medicine Lucentis.
    Neovascular (wet) age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a
degenerative condition affecting central vision in people typically aged fifty
and older. Lucentis works to maintain and even improve vision affected by wet
AMD.
    Today's investment of over $100 million over three years means that
Ontarians suffering from AMD will for the first time have access to this
groundbreaking drug.

    QUOTES

    "Many people in Ontario, especially older people, will enjoy improved
eyesight and quality of life with the availability of Lucentis through our
publicly funded drug programs," said George Smitherman, Deputy Premier and
Minister of Health and Long-Term Care.
    "We are extremely pleased that Lucentis, a product proven to prevent
blindness, is being covered by Ontario's public drug programs," said Jim
Sanders, CEO and president of CNIB. "I know that people with wet AMD,
including many seniors, will be very happy with this announcement. It is clear
that Ontario is establishing itself as a leader in meeting the needs of
patients in need of important drug therapies."
    "The decision to cover Lucentis is fantastic news for the people of
Ontario that suffer from macular degeneration," said Dr. Kyle Brydon, Chair of
the Ontario Medical Association's Section on Ophthalmology. "Lucentis is one
of the most effective treatments for people suffering from the wet form of
macular degeneration...The government's decision to cover Lucentis will allow
many more patients to be treated and potentially avoid the devastating impact
of sudden, irreversible blindness."

    QUICK FACTS

    
    -   Approximately 10,000 patients are treated for AMD in Ontario each
        year.

    -   AMD affects the macula, an area of the retina responsible for
        detailed visual activities such as reading and facial recognition.

    -   Since October 2003 the McGuinty government has added 86 new brand-
        name drugs available in 154 different strengths and formats -
        including Lucentis - to the Ontario Drug Benefit Formulary for
        reimbursement through the Ontario Public Drugs Programs. In addition,
        15 drugs are reimbursed through the Exceptional Access Program.

    LEARN MORE

    For more information on Lucentis, visit the Ministry of Health and Long-
    Term Care.

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                                                                BACKGROUNDER
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               ONTARIO FUNDS LUCENTIS FOR THE TREATMENT OF WET
                   AGE-RELATED MACULAR DEGENERATION (AMD)
    

    Ontario will now fund Lucentis under its public drug programs for
Ontarians with neovascular (wet) age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

    AMD

    AMD is a chronic disease affecting central vision in people typically
aged fifty and older. There are two basic types of AMD, dry and wet. Both
types affect the eye's macula, located in the centre of the retina, which is
responsible for detailed visual activities such as reading and driving. Wet
AMD is more severe and involves the leaking of blood and other fluids into the
macula. Approximately 10,000 patients are treated for AMD in Ontario each
year.

    Lucentis

    Lucentis is a prescription medicine developed for the treatment of
patients with wet AMD. It is administered as an injection into the eye by a
physician and contains ranibizumab, an antineovascularisation agent designed
to block the growth of abnormal blood vessels that can leak blood and other
fluids. Clinical research has shown that Lucentis not only stops vision
deterioration associated with AMD, but improves visual capacity in 40 per cent
of cases.
    Other prescription medicines have been used to treat patients with AMD in
Canada. Visudyne, currently offered under Ontario's Public Drug Programs
(OPDP), is a form of photodynamic therapy that can stem the loss of vision
associated with AMD.

    
    For more information on AMD and Lucentis, visit:

    -   Health Canada
    -   Ontario Public Drug Programs

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                                                      ontario.ca/health-news
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For further information:

For further information: Laurel Ostfield, Minister's Office, (416)
212-4048; David Jensen, Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, (416) 314-6197

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