Thousands of Canadians Speak Out for the Right to Sight

    - Numerous organizations also stand behind CNIB campaign to prevent
    needless blindness in Canada -

    TORONTO, Jan. 21 /CNW/ - In only 12 days, more than 7,000 Canadians and a
number of organizations have shown their support in CNIB's Right to Sight
campaign, telling members of the Common Drug Review (CDR) that a breakthrough
treatment for a widespread and devastating eye disease should be recommended
to provincial and territorial health plans. Without a recommendation for
Lucentis, which is being reviewed for a final time this Wednesday (January 23,
2008), tens of thousands of Canadians will not be able to afford the first and
only clinically proven treatment that in many cases can actually restore
vision lost to wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
    "The groundswell of support we've received and the reaction we have seen
from Canadians in the past 12 days has been tremendous," said Jim Sanders,
President and CEO of CNIB. "We are confident the members of the Common Drug
Review have heard the message, but more importantly, we trust they will make
the right decision based on due diligence and an understanding that all
Canadians, regardless of income, deserve the chance to maintain their
    CNIB has received support from across the country and around the world
for the Right to Sight campaign, from organizations such as the Canadian
Association of Retired Persons, the Canadian Association of Optometrists, the
Canadian Ophthalmological Society, the Canadian Council of the Blind, the
Association for Sight Impaired Consumers, the Canadian Diabetes Association,
the Canadian Organization for Rare Disorders, the AMD Alliance International,
the World Blind Union and the International Association for the Prevention of
Blindness. Canadian comedian and actor Mary Walsh, who has wet AMD herself,
has also thrown her support behind the campaign.
    Through the campaign website,, Canadians have written
thousands of letters to the federal Minister of Health, provincial and
territorial health ministers, and officials with CDR. Here are just a few of
their personal stories, excerpted with permission from their letters:

    My mum has been diagnosed with wet AMD, and we cannot afford this drug,
    while she continues to suffer and become more dependent on us. This not
    only causes tremendous stress on her but also on the family, who in turn
    are not able to contribute to Canada's growth.
    Minaz Rattansi, North York, ON

    When I heard of Lucentis, I realized immediately that this is the drug
    I've been praying for. It may mean that I don't lose vision in my second
    eye, and that I can keep working and live life as I have been - to the
    fullest. This drug brings me hope.
    Mary Walsh, St. John's, NF

    A friend of mine went blind from AMD 10 years ago. She will never be able
    to see her sons get married, admire future grandchildren, and drive a car
    again. She is only 52 years old. If Lucentis had been available to her
    when she was first diagnosed, she might still have her eyesight.
    Patricia Lund, Kelowna, BC

    I have been diagnosed with this disease in both eyes and find life quite
    difficult. I have been touched by the situations of some elderly patients
    in my eye doctor's office. They are on government pensions and they
    cannot afford to pay for this drug themselves. Sight is precious.
    David Brown, Hamilton, ON

    Lucentis was approved for use in Canada by Health Canada in 2007 and
approved for coverage under the provincial health plan in Quebec shortly
after. The government of Ontario has also recognized the significance of the
treatment by considering it under its rapid review process, although no
decision regarding funding has yet been announced. Lucentis is also approved
and reimbursed in the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom,
Switzerland, France and other countries around the world. In late 2007,
Canada's Common Drug review issued a negative recommendation for Lucentis
reimbursement, but on January 23, it will re-consider the drug and issue a
final recommendation.
    AMD affects more Canadians than many other well-known diseases. In fact,
it affects more Canadians than breast cancer, prostate cancer, Parkinson's and
Alzheimer's combined and is the leading cause of vision loss in Canada. It is
estimated that more than a million Canadians have AMD and more than 100,000
are currently affected by wet AMD, with the incidence expected to double
within the next 25 years.
    Wet AMD is the most aggressive and severe form of the disease,
responsible for 90% of the severe vision loss associated with AMD. It has a
devastating impact on both the people who develop the disease and their
families. It removes the ability to read, drive and see the faces of loved
ones. People diagnosed with AMD often develop serious depression and are more
likely to be admitted to nursing homes or sustain serious falls compared to
the general population. Further, the cost of vision loss in Canada, much of it
driven by AMD, is estimated at $7.9 billion per year in direct and indirect
healthcare costs - on par with diseases such as diabetes.

    CNIB is a nationwide, community-based, registered charity committed to
public education, research and the vision health of all Canadians. CNIB
provides the services and support necessary to enjoy a good quality of life
while living with vision loss.

For further information:

For further information: or to arrange interviews, please contact: Nick
Cowling, Optimum PR, (416) 934-8011,

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