Arthritis community cries foul on Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care

    People with inflammatory arthritis treated as second class citizens in

    TORONTO, Aug. 11 /CNW/ - While people with devastating forms of
inflammatory arthritis continue to be denied coverage for critically important
medications, the Ontario government announced last week $741 million in new
money to fund a provincial diabetes plan.
    "This is another clear indicator of the Ontario Ministry of Health and
Long Term Care's discrimination based on disease-type," said Cheryl Koehn,
person with rheumatoid arthritis and President of Arthritis Consumer Experts.
"While we must be very clear that we do not wish to see anything taken away
from people with diabetes or any other disease, the Ministry of Health's
continued refusal to level the playing field between arthritis and other
serious diseases is unacceptable."
    In Ontario, several medications remain unavailable on the Ontario Drug
Benefit plan formulary for the treatment of some of the most devastating forms
of arthritis. These medications are part of a class of drugs called biologic
response modifiers. When accessed early in the disease process, biologics are
often able to slow or stop disease, and prevent crippling joint damage caused
by inflammation.
    "The Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care has taken the position
that there is no 'care gap' for Ontarians living with serious inflammatory
arthritis," continued Koehn, "but nothing could be further from the truth. The
bureaucracy is simply shoving science under the carpet and hoping that no one
will notice. Well our members in Ontario say enough is enough."
    Dr. John Esdaile, Scientific Director of the Arthritis Research Centre of
Canada further explained the science:
    "In rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis,
we have learned a great deal about the complex pathways that lead to the
intense inflammation that causes the pain, loss of mobility and if left
unchecked, certain permanent disability and premature death. A number of
different medications have been developed to interfere with critical parts of
the inflammatory process," he said.
    "What science has not told us yet is which inflammation pathway is
critical to the joint destruction in a specific person with arthritis. We
cannot predict which person will respond to one of these medications and not
another medication. Rheumatologists must be able to prescribe from the full
arsenal of biologic disease modifiers to best help individual patients."
    "Like in other diseases where they are used, biologic response modifiers
in the treatment of inflammatory arthritis can cost up to $20,000 per year per
patient, however, only one biologic response modifier can ever be used at one
time," Koehn clarified. "In real-world terms, this means that listing all five
currently available would not increase costs, it would only help doctors and
patients choose the best one for the patient's disease profile."
    Based on Arthritis Consumer Experts' most recent Report Card on
Provincial Formulary Reimbursement Coverage for Biologic Response Modifiers,
Ontario ranks sixth in the country for coverage. Ontario's biologic response
modifier listings also fall short of the Health Canada and Common Drug Review
approvals and recommendations, as well as they do not meet the recommendations
for the use of nonbiologic and biologic disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs
in rheumatoid arthritis issued by the American College of Rheumatology in June
    "Why are Ontarians with arthritis being treated with a significantly
lower standard of care than other Canadians?" Koehn asked. "The Ontario
government has had close to two years to make the right decision and provide
reimbursement coverage for medications deemed scientifically important and
medically necessary by virtually every arthritis expert in the world," she
    "With $741 million in new money available to create a comprehensive
prevention, treatment and care program for diabetes, you cannot tell me there
is no money for medicines that are proved to prevent damage and disability in
inflammatory arthritis," Koehn concluded. "Is it not time that the human
rights on Ontarians living with arthritis be upheld the same way they are for
those living with other diseases?"

    About ACE

    Arthritis Consumer Experts (ACE) is a national organization that provides
research-based information and education to Canadians with arthritis, and
monitors the performance of provincial health care delivery to those living
with the disease. The organization helps to empower people living with all
forms of arthritis to take control of their disease and to take action in
health care and research decision making. ACE is led by people with arthritis
and its activities are guided by a strict set of guiding principles, and by an
advisory board comprised of leading scientists, medical professionals and
informed arthritis activists.

For further information:

For further information: Quincey Kirschner, JointHealth(TM) program
director, Arthritis Consumer Experts, (778) 847-9793

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