A chance to prevent needless blindness for tens of thousands of Canadians

Canadian Drug Review recommendation could save millions in costs to public system and provide greater quality of life for Canadians affected by AMD.

The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) recently launched the Right to Sight advocacy campaign to encourage Canadians to ask the Common Drug Review (CDR) to recommend a breakthrough treatment for the leading cause of vision loss in Canadians. Without a recommendation for Lucentis, which is being reconsidered on January 23, 2008, tens of thousands of Canadians will not be able to afford the only clinically proven treatment that in many patients can restore vision caused by wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

“For the first time, a clinically proven treatment that reverses vision loss caused by wet AMD is available in Canada, yet without a recommendation from the Common Drug Review, tens of thousands of Canadians will go needlessly blind,” said Jim Sanders, President and CEO of CNIB.

“The initial review for Lucentis received a negative decision, but it is being reviewed again in a couple of weeks. We are asking Canadians to join us in informing our elected officials and the Common Drug Review that everyone has a Right to Sight and that a CDR recommendation is absolutely paramount in making that a reality for many Canadians.”

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 disease combined and is the leading cause of vision loss in Canadians. 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 form of the disease, responsible for 90% of the severe vision loss associated with AMD, and 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. Indirect costs include lower expected earnings for people with vision loss, cost of medical aids and rehabilitation services, cost of caregivers’ time and effort and loss of taxes from lower earnings.

“The recommendation of Lucentis should have been an easy decision for CDR the first time it reviewed the treatment,” said Dr. Keith Gordon, Head of Research for CNIB. ”It’s the only clinically proven treatment that can actually improve vision for many of those affected by wet AMD. The benefits of maintaining a person’s vision more than justify the cost of the drug.”

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. Lucentis is also approved and reimbursed in the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, France and other countries around the world.