Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Avastin/Lucentis Update 21: Canadian Healthcare Struggles with Avastin vs. Lucentis Controversy

As reported in Tuesday’s Globe and Mail, Canadian federal officials from Health Canada are struggling with the decision of whether to approve Lucentis or Avastin for the treatment of wet AMD. The federal officials are facing pressure from Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc., which sells Lucentis in Canada, and other interest groups (funded by Novartis) to provide public coverage of Lucentis, despite the widespread use of Avastin by Canadian ophthalmologists.

A drug policy researcher at the University of Victoria, Alan Cassels, said, “What is in the public interest here conflicts with what is in the private interest.”

The Common Drug Review, a federal body responsible for determining whether drugs merit coverage on provincial health plans, rejected Lucentis for coverage late last year.

But the application is being reconsidered at Novartis' request, and a final decision is expected today Although the Common Drug Review makes recommendations about which drugs should qualify for coverage, provinces still make their own decisions.

Novartis said it's important for patients to have affordable access to Lucentis because it's the "first and only" treatment that can improve the vision and quality of life of those suffering from wet macular degeneration.

In an e-mail, the company responded to the use of Avastin to treat the eye disease by saying, "it is not approved for intraocular [in the eye] use and is not indicated for treatment of AMD [age-related macular degeneration]."

But to Mr. Cassels, an outspoken critic of the marketing practices of drug companies, the mounting pressure being placed on the government to fund expensive Lucentis treatments is a disturbing example of the industry's push for higher profits at the expense of affordable medication. "It would be reasonable to promote the use of the cheaper version," he said. "This is about public health versus private interest."

For the complete story, please follow the Globe and Mail link:

Macular degeneration: The battle over two drug treatments


At 10:55 AM, Anonymous Barry Wheeler said...

The Common Drug Review committee in Canada has recently recommended that Lucentis be the drug covered by the provincial health care systems in Canada. In fact, on March 13, 2008, the Ontario government announced that it would provide Lucentis as the treatment for wet macular degeneration for patients in Ontario. This was effective March 25, 2008.

Barry Wheeler


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