But should geography determine a patient's quality of life?
MONTREAL, Oct. 6 /CNW/ - Ginette Couture from Gatineau, Québec and
Deirdre Carnegie from Calgary, Alberta, are two women balancing the
responsibilities and demands of everyday life, while coping with an
unpredictable and often debilitating disease - multiple sclerosis (MS). Thanks
to Health Canada's approval of Tysabri(TM) in October 2006, the first new MS
therapy in almost a decade, both women have experienced the beneficial effects
of this medication by either being granted special access to the treatment or
by paying for it privately. So what sets these two women apart? Fortunately
for Ginette Couture, her home province of Québec recently became the first in
Canada to list Tysabri(TM) on its provincial formulary, making it much easier
for Ginette to access the medication that is already improving her quality of
life. Deirdre Carnegie, on the other hand, and MS patients like her living
elsewhere in Canada are not so lucky.
Quebec Leads the Way
Québec's Régie de l'assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ) announced that
effective October 1, 2008, Tysabri(TM) was added to its provincial formulary
making Québec the first province in Canada to list the medication. This
treatment has been shown to reduce the frequency of clinical relapses, delay
the progression of disability and decrease the number and volume of active
brain lesions. It has been demonstrated to improve patient quality of life and
results in some patients being completely free of disease activity.
"It's critical for doctors to be able to prescribe the appropriate
medications for the needs of individual patients, and today's decision by RAMQ
allows us to continue doing this for people with MS," says Dr. François
Jacques, Neurologist, MD FRCP, Director of the Clinique Neuro Outaouais.
"Adding Tysabri(TM) to our arsenal of MS medications is wonderful news as it
provides us with the opportunity to offer our patients the best available
treatments for their disease with the ultimate goal of helping them to better
manage their symptoms and overall health."
"Tysabri(TM) has proven scientific benefit and we are pleased that Québec
patients will now have the option of choosing this therapy if their doctors
deem it necessary for them," says Dr. Paul O'Connor, National Scientific and
Clinical Advisor to the MS Society of Canada. "The Multiple Sclerosis Society
is working towards the day that Canadians across the country will have equal
access to treatments so that they too may benefit from the most appropriate
medication for their condition."
Canada Lags Behind Other Developed Countries Worldwide
However, Canada still lags behind its global counterparts in making newer
medications available to Canadians who can benefit from them. In light of its
recent ranking near the bottom of a list of developed countries in providing
public access to new drug therapies by the 2007 Wyatt Health International
Comparison Study, Canada currently remains the only developed country in the
world not reimbursing the first new MS therapy in almost a decade. This means
that MS patients like Deirdre, who do not live in Québec and experience the
financial burden of paying for her MS treatment out of their own pocket, often
have no choice but to discontinue a therapy that has noticeably improved their
condition and are forced to watch their health and quality of life decline.
"I was diagnosed with MS eight years ago and I can say unequivocally that
Tysabri(TM) has significantly improved my quality of life," says Deirdre
Carnegie. "I am able to take this therapy now because of my private insurance
coverage, but that is not guaranteed. I am concerned that someday, I may not
be able to access the medication I need. While I am pleased for people with MS
in Québec, I am hoping that the rest of the provinces will join Québec in
listing this medication on their formularies so no one has to worry about how
they can obtain it and physicians can prescribe it to patients who will
No two people with MS respond the same way to treatment. Despite where in
Canada an MS patient lives, the more treatment choices available to patients
like Deirdre and healthcare providers, the better able they are to select a
therapy that will most effectively control the patient's symptoms and help
delay disease progression.
About Multiple Sclerosis
The prevalence of MS in Canada is among the highest in the world,
affecting an estimated 55,000 to 75,000 Canadians.(1) MS can occur at any age.
It is usually diagnosed between the ages of 15 to 40, and is more than three
times more likely to occur in women than in men.(1) The Multiple Sclerosis
Society of Canada estimates that based on current prevalence rates,
approximately 1,000 new cases of MS are diagnosed each year, which means three
more people are diagnosed with MS everyday in Canada.
Tysabri(TM) represents a significant step forward in the treatment of MS.
In the AFFIRM pivotal phase III trial, thirty-seven per cent of patients
treated with Tysabri(TM) were free of relapses, disability progression, Gd+
lesions, and T2 lesions over two years vs 7 per cent for placebo treated
In the sub-set of patients matching the Medicament D'exception
reimbursement criteria in the AFFIRM pivotal phase III trial, more than one
quarter of patients treated with Tysabri(TM) were free of relapses, disability
progression, Gd+ lesions, and T2 lesions over two years 27 per cent vs 2 per
cent of placebo treated patients.(3)
Tysabri(TM) is the only treatment for patients with relapsing remitting
MS that is administered once every four weeks by intravenous (IV) infusion. It
is the first new MS therapy in almost a decade, and is the only antibody
therapy currently available in Canada (an antibody is a protein made by your
immune system). Studies have shown that this antibody treatment has excellent
efficacy, reduces the frequency of attacks by 68 per cent, and reduces the
rate of disease progression and the number of new-active MRI lesions in the
About Elan Corporation
Elan Corporation, plc is a neuroscience-based biotechnology company
committed to making a difference in the lives of patients and their families
by dedicating itself to bringing innovations in science to fill significant
unmet medical needs that continue to exist around the world. Elan shares trade
on the New York, London and Dublin Stock Exchanges. For additional information
about the company, please visit www.elan.com.
About Biogen Idec
Biogen Idec creates new standards of care in therapeutic areas with high
unmet medical needs. Founded in 1978, Biogen Idec is a global leader in the
discovery, development, manufacturing, and commercialization of innovative
therapies. Patients in more than 90 countries benefit from Biogen Idec's
significant products that address diseases such as lymphoma, multiple
sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis. For product labeling, press releases and
additional information about the company, please visit www.biogenidec.com.
(1) MS Society of Canada. Frequently Asked Questions. Available at
(2) Havrdova E, et al. Natalizumab increases the proportion of patients
with multiple sclerosis who are disease free. Poster presented at the
23rd Congress of the European Committee for Treatment and Research in
MS. October 2007, Prague.
(3) Galetta SL, et al. Natalizumab increases the proportion of patients
who are disease free based on clinical or MRI criteria in Relapsing
Multiple Sclerosis. 60th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of
Neurology. April 2008, Chicago.
For further information:
For further information: Vesna Krklinski, Six Degrees Medical
Consulting, Phone: (416) 643-8621, Email: VKrklinski@sixdegreesmed.com; OR
Laura Jablonski, Six Degrees Medical Consulting, Phone: (416) 643-8597, Email: