JointHealth™ express   June 23, 2011

Good news for Ontario residents

Effective June 8, 2011, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has approved funding of tocilizumab (Actemra®) in the Ontario Drug Benefit (ODB) Program. Ontarians living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) will now be able to access tocilizumab through the public formulary.

Tocilizumab belongs to the class of medications called "biologics" (short for biologic response modifiers), which target the specific pathways responsible for causing inflammation and joint destruction. Tocilizumab is the first medication designed to specifically inhibit or slow down the body's production of IL-6 (a protein that when overproduced promotes inflammation) and is effective at treating the symptoms and underlying disease process in rheumatoid arthritis.

Details of the funding include:
  • The criteria conform to the Common Drug Review (CDR) recommendations.
  • As with other biologics, patients begin treatment at the 4 mg dose and move to 8 mg based on clinical response.
  • Monotherapy is permitted where methotrexate is inappropriate or not tolerated.
  • Initial approval is for one year. After a year, renewals are managed in the same way as they are with other biologics.
The Ministry listing details can be found on pages 61 - 62 in this link.

Since each person living with the disease responds differently to the available medications, no single biologic therapy is effective in everyone with RA. The addition of tocilizumab means one more treatment option is available for residents of Ontario, and that improves the chances of finding the right one for an individual.