Progress in Ontario for patients with uncommon but serious lung disorder, but more access to current treatments still needed

    TORONTO, May 15 /CNW/ - Patients in Ontario living with pulmonary
arterial hypertension (PAH), a serious lung disorder, received a substantial
piece of good news with a recent decision by the Ontario Public Drug Programs
(OPDP). The decision also serves to highlight that more needs to be done to
ensure greater access to treatments so that all patients can achieve the
maximum possible benefit and opportunity to extend their lives.
    Left untreated, PAH has a poor prognosis and can lead to death in as
little as two to three years from diagnosis. It is often diagnosed at an
advanced stage when survival rates are poor, thus timely access to all proven
treatment options is critical to ensure patients the best chance for maximum
    This new OPDP decision removes restrictions imposed a year ago that
required doctors to follow a set procedure in prescribing different treatments
in a particular order, rather than allowing them to choose the medication they
felt would be of most immediate benefit to the patient.
    "This critical change shows that the Ontario government is committed to
putting patients first by improving access to approved medications for PAH
patients in the Province of Ontario," said Darren Bell, President, Pulmonary
Hypertension Association of Canada. "However, further lifting of restrictions
is needed to allow doctors to prescribe more than one treatment in combination
to best serve some patients." The OPDP will currently only reimburse one PAH
drug at a time, even though PAH specialists feel some patients would benefit
from attacking this terrible disease by using approved medications in
combination to optimize the patient's response to treatment.
    "Timely access to all treatment options is critical so patients can enjoy
a better quality of life and have the best hope for longer survival," added Dr
Sanjay Mehta, Respirologist, Director, Southwest Ontario Pulmonary
Hypertension Clinic, London, Ontario. "The recent OPDP decision regarding PAH
medications restores the ability of doctors to make treatment decisions in the
best interests of their PAH patients."
    The OPDP change is also important for patients with a condition known as
scleroderma, who are at high risk for developing pulmonary arterial
    "PAH is the leading cause of death for patients with scleroderma. Up to
15% of our patients develop this complication," said Maureen Sauve, President,
Scleroderma Society of Ontario ( "We are thankful
that the Ontario government listened to our concerns and that our patients
will have access to appropriate treatments that may not only improve their
quality of life, but can increase their life expectancy."

    About Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension

    Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is an uncommon, often misdiagnosed
incurable disease affecting the arteries of the lungs. In PAH, the arteries of
the lungs become closed off or scarred, resulting in high blood pressure in
the lungs. PAH affects mainly women in their childbearing years but can strike
anyone, at any age regardless of sex, race or social status. The main symptoms
of PAH are unexplained shortness of breath, fatigue, swelling of the feet and
ankles, and fainting.
    There may be as many as 10,000 people in Canada who have pulmonary
arterial hypertension. The exact number is unknown because few clinical trials
have been done in the area and many people are not diagnosed at the earlier
stages of the disease. Although PAH remains an incurable disease, since 1997,
seven treatments have been approved in Canada. Thanks to these treatments many
patients live longer and healthier lives.

For further information:

For further information: Angie Slubowska, National Manager, Pulmonary
Hypertension Association of Canada, 1-877-7-PHA-CANADA,; Maureen Sauve, President, Scleroderma Society of
Ontario, (905) 973-9904,; Jean Kanan, HKDP
Communications and public affairs, (514) 395-0375 x225,

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