Avastin/Lucentis Update 21: Canadian Healthcare Struggles with Avastin vs. Lucentis Controversy
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."
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Macular degeneration: The battle over two drug treatments