Patients being put at risk by inclusion of cancer drug in BC treatment program for treatment of wet age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), says Canadian Council of the Blind

    VANCOUVER, June 9 /CNW Telbec/ - The Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB)
is extremely concerned about the British Columbia Government's decision to
include the use of an untested and unapproved medication for wet age related
Macular Degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of severe vision loss for
Canadians over the age of fifty.
    Despite the warning against the use of Avastin by Health Canada who have
not reviewed or authorized this drug for wet AMD treatment, the BC government
will reimburse Avastin as part of this program, which became effective June 1,
    "The CCB believes that patient's in BC with wet AMD are being put at risk
unnecessarily by the inclusion of Avastin in the government's wet AMD
program," said Lori Fry, Director, BC/Yukon Division of the CCB.
    Avastin is an approved drug for the treatment of colorectal cancer, but
it has not been tested or approved for injection into the eye. There remains
many unanswered questions in regards to the BC reimbursement plan, and the CCB
is further concerned that patient's have not yet learned of the details
including vital elements such as what percentage of the treatment cost will be
covered, how many injections will qualify for coverage, which physicians
(retina specialists and/or ophthalmologists) will be able to access covered
treatment, and what the treatment criteria will be.
    Based on this negative information it is difficult for the CCB to
understand why the BC government would consider using patients as test cases
especially when a drug known as Lucentis is already available and has been
developed and approved for the treatment of wet AMD with favorable results.
    Last year the Canadian Common Drug Review recommended provinces reimburse
Lucentis under their public drug plans, based on its benefits and cost. This
is the drug patients in other provinces have access to, and patients in BC
deserve the same. This should be nothing less than the best care available.

    The CCB is the "Voice of the Blind" in Canada and was founded in 1944 by
blind war veterans. It has 65 chapters across Canada and is the largest
membership-based organization for the blind.

    "Since the CCB is concerned with the welfare of those with blindness and
visual impairment and is dedicated to enhancing the individual and collective
needs of visually impaired and blind Canadians, we are urging hose concerned
about the issue to contact their member of the British Columbia Legislature,
Health Services Minister George Abbott, and Premier Gordon Campbell in order
to express their concerns," concluded Fry.

For further information:

For further information: Lori Fry, Vice-president, Canadian Council of
the Blind (CCB), BC-Yukon Division, (250) 395-2452; Marcella Munro,
Earnscliffe Strategy Group, cell (604) 345-3214

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