Arthritis Consumer Experts

December 16, 2008
For Immediate Release

People with inflammatory arthritis still denied coverage for gold-standard medications

(Toronto, ON) — The Ontario government has recently announced very restrictive coverage for abatacept, a medically necessary rheumatoid arthritis medication, while continuing to ignore patients' pleas to fund two more treatments.

"This is another example of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care's refusal to listen to the experts and provide appropriate care for Ontarians with inflammatory arthritis," said Cheryl Koehn, President of Arthritis Consumer Experts. "Once again, the government is failing to consider the full breadth of available evidence, and is listing arthritis medications in a restrictive manner or refusing to list them at all."

In Ontario, two medications remain unlisted for the treatment of inflammatory arthritis: adalimumab for ankylosing spondylitis, and infliximab for psoriatic arthritis. These diseases are some of the most common types of inflammatory arthritis. Without proper treatment, they can cause devastating physical damage and disability. While the recent announcement adds a rheumatoid arthritis medication to the formulary, the criteria for reimbursement are restrictive and not reflective of gold-standard treatment guidelines.

Jay Fiddler, research analyst for Arthritis Consumer Experts, agreed. "The Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care continues to indicate that in the province of Ontario, arthritis treatment is not a priority," she said. "At this point in time, people who need help paying for infliximab to treat psoriatic arthritis, or adalimumab to treat ankylosing spondylitis, are simply out of luck," Fiddler continued. "And now, people who need abatacept for rheumatoid arthritis will need to jump through hoops to get it."

These arthritis medications are listed on many public formularies in provinces across the country. For example, adalimumab is listed for ankylosing spondylitis treatment in seven provinces in Canada, including BC, Saskatchewan, Quebec, and three Maritime provinces.

"Why are Ontarians with arthritis receiving a significantly lower standard of care than other Canadians?" Koehn asked. "Ontarians with inflammatory arthritis are suffering, and government is doing next to nothing to help them."

About ACE

Arthritis Consumer Experts (ACE) is a national organization that provides research-based information and education to Canadians with arthritis, and monitors the performance of provincial health care delivery to those living with the disease. The organization helps to empower people living with all forms of arthritis to take control of their disease and to take action in health care and research decision making. ACE is led by people with arthritis and its activities are guided by a strict set of guiding principles, and by an advisory board comprised of leading scientists, medical professionals and informed arthritis activists.

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For more information:
Quincey Kirschner, JointHealth™ Program Director, Arthritis Consumer Experts
(778) 847-9793