CARP applauds decision to add Lucentis to Ontario drug plan

Good news in the fight against the leading cause of age-related vision loss: the Ontario government will reimburse the first ever medication to improve vision and restore quality of life.

Ontarians suffering from the leading cause of blindness in Canada will now have access to the new prescription medicine Lucentis,.

“Once Lucentis was made available, Canadians with Wet AMD had new hope to not only halt the disease but to restore their vision,” said Susan Eng, CARP’s Executive Vice President for Advocacy. “But for seniors on fixed income, that hope was illusory unless the Provincial governments paid for them. Ontario is the second but also the largest province to make Lucentis available through its publicly funded drug program.”

Speaking at the press conference announcing the addition of Lucentis to the Ontario formulary, she added “CARP congratulates the Minister of Health and the Ontario government for making the hope a reality for thousands of Ontarians. And we cannot lose sight of the research and development spent in the private sector to make these life saving drugs possible.”

Neovascular (wet) age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a degenerative condition affecting central vision in people typically aged fifty and older. Lucentis works to maintain and even improve vision affected by wet AMD.

The Ontario government’s investment of over $100 million over three years means that Ontarians suffering from AMD will for the first time have access to this groundbreaking drug.

“Many people in Ontario, especially older people, will enjoy improved eyesight and quality of life with the availability of Lucentis through our publicly funded drug programs,” said George Smitherman, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health and Long-Term Care.

Ontario joins Quebec as the only provinces in which Lucentis is reimbursed on their public drug plan.

“We are extremely pleased that Lucentis, a product proven to prevent blindness, is being covered by Ontario’s public drug programs,” said Jim Sanders, CEO and president of Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB). “I know that people with wet AMD, including many seniors, will be very happy with this announcement. It is clear that Ontario is establishing itself as a leader in meeting the needs of patients in need of important drug therapies.”

“The decision to cover Lucentis is fantastic news for the people of Ontario that suffer from macular degeneration,” said Dr. Kyle Brydon, Chair of the Ontario Medical Association’s Section on Ophthalmology. “Lucentis is one of the most effective treatments for people suffering from the wet form of macular degeneration…The government’s decision to cover Lucentis will allow many more patients to be treated and potentially avoid the devastating impact of sudden, irreversible blindness.”

Since October 2003 the McGuinty government has added 86 new brand-name drugs available in 154 different strengths and formats – including Lucentis – to the Ontario Drug Benefit Formulary for reimbursement through the Ontario Public Drugs Programs. In addition, 15 drugs are reimbursed through the Exceptional Access Program.

CARP has advocated for public policy changes that will improve the quality of life for our members and all Zoomers. That includes ensuring equal access to drugs that are critical to their health and well being.