MONTREAL, Feb. 2, 2012 /CNW Telbec/ - Myeloma Canada has endorsed the February 1, 2012 decision by INESSS, Quebec's health services review agency, to reimburse the oral drug Revlimid® (lenalidomide) as second-line therapy for the treatment of patients afflicted with multiple myeloma, a rare, incurable but treatable blood cancer.
Revlimid was approved in October 2008 by Health Canada for the treatment of multiple myeloma patients who relapse after receiving first-line treatment for this aggressive blood cancer. Until yesterday's announcement, Quebec was the only major jurisdiction in Canada which had not approved Revlimid as second-line therapy.
According to John Lemieux, President of Myeloma Canada, "The decision to move Revlimid from third-line to second-line therapy status was long overdue. Revlimid's clinical effectiveness as a cancer-fighting super-drug has never been in dispute within the haematologist and oncologist community. Enabling patients to have earlier access to Revlimid will extend patients' life expectancy and give them an unparalleled quality-of-life-benefit. A self-administered pill, Revlimid limits the need for in-hospital treatment, allowing patients to lead almost normal lives."
Lemieux disclosed Myeloma Canada's significant role in promoting approval: "At Myeloma Canada's urging, INESSS invited patient representatives to appear before their evaluation committee (Comité scientifique permanent de l'évaluation aux fins d'inscription), which is charged with making recommendations as to which treatments are approved for public funding. The opportunity to engage the Committee in face-to-face discussions, believed to be a first in Quebec, and to present personal experience-based evidence on the quality-of-life issue was a crucial factor in achieving funding approval. This direct evidence helped convince the Committee that in applying their ethical criteria, the quality-of-life benefit from Revlimid outweighed the issue of the cost impact on the rest of the healthcare system."
Despite the positive effect that yesterday's decision will have for Quebec's myeloma community, estimated at about 2000 patients, Lemieux raised some important concerns. "We are alarmed that the decision is qualified as a pilot project and is conditional upon ongoing price negotiations with the manufacturer. Although public funding goes into effect immediately, these conditions pose the threat of future delisting. Myeloma Canada does not expect Quebec to backslide on this decision. However, our Board of Directors has mandated our Executive Director, Aldo Del Col, to continue efforts with INESSS to eliminate any remaining restrictive conditions, supported by a recent survey of Quebec myeloma patients which demonstrated conclusively both the quality-of-life benefit and the life-extending impact of Revlimid."
"Overall, however, despite the conditional aspects of the decision, yesterday's positive outcome signals, we believe, a new era of cooperation between INESSS and the cancer-patient population and its representatives. The initiative of the Minister of Health and INESSS to create a more transparent environment, including direct dialogue with patient representatives on healthcare funding, is a great step forward," said Lemieux.
About Multiple Myeloma
Multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow, is an incurable but treatable disease. The cancer starts in plasma cells, which are produced in the bone marrow. In myeloma, abnormal plasma cells, called myeloma cells, grow uncontrollably, crowding out the normal blood cells in the bone. This can bring on symptoms such as fatigue, recurrent infections and severe pain resulting from bone fractures. The disease disturbs the body's balance of minerals and prevents organs, such as the kidney, as well as nerves, from functioning properly. In Canada, approximately 2,300 people are diagnosed with multiple myeloma every year.
About Myeloma Canada
Myeloma Canada, the only national organization exclusively devoted to the Canadian myeloma community, is a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to supporting people living with multiple myeloma. The mission of Myeloma Canada is to: provide educational resources to patients, families and caregivers; increase awareness of the disease; promote access to new therapies, treatment options and health care resources; and advance Canadian research initiatives.
Myeloma Canada works with regional support groups, international myeloma patient groups, government agencies and leading myeloma experts to strengthen the voice and advance the cause of the Canadian myeloma community. For more information visit www.myeloma.ca.
For further information:
Charles Pitts, [email protected]
877 990 9044