News release

Province to Fund Lucentis Treatment

Nova Scotians suffering from Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), a chronic retina disease, will soon have public funding for treatments to prevent and reverse the disease.

The province announced today, Oct. 20, coverage for Lucentis treatment of AMD for beneficiaries of publicly funded drug programs such as Senior's Pharmacare, Family Pharmacare and Community Services Pharmacare programs, effective Jan. 1.

"Lucentis is an expensive drug, but by delivering the treatment in hospital-based eye clinics, using retinal specialists, we can improve efficiencies and reduce the budget impact by millions of dollars in the coming years," said Health Minister Maureen MacDonald. "It is a creative approach and the right decision to provide better health care while living within our means."

The province is also announcing that patients who are currently receiving treatment for AMD with Avastin can also receive publicly funded therapy, if they and their physician wish to do so.

Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration affects the central vision. It can cause blood and fluid to leak into the eye and lead to blindness. It tends to affect people age 50 or older with the vast majority of those affected older than 65.

Lucentis and Avastin therapies will be provided to Nova Scotians who meet the clinical criteria. Patients who have private insurance will continue to access those resources.

Patients have been paying about $1,800 to $2,000 per injection for Lucentis therapy, usually requiring six or more injections per year. Avastin therapy currently costs patients as much as $500 per injection.

"I think the announcement of funding is wonderful news," said Dr. Alan Cruess, district chief, Capital Health Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. "Lucentis has the potential to improve vision for people with wet AMD, especially if it's caught early."

More than 800 Nova Scotians will benefit in the coming year.

"These two treatment options will help to maintain the quality of life and independence of hundreds of Nova Scotians every year," said Duncan Williams, CNIB director of government relations. "This is a wise investment of health dollars that will actually reduce the associated costs of vision loss on families and the province."
"For most Nova Scotians without private health insurance coverage, Lucentis is virtually unaffordable," said Ms. MacDonald. "This will enable Nova Scotians from all walks of life with wet macular degeneration to access Lucentis."

FOR BROADCAST USE:

The province announced today (October 20th) it will fund the use of Lucentis to treat Wet Age-related Macular Degeneration, a chronic retina disease, beginning in January.

Lucentis will be provided to beneficiaries covered by Senior's Pharmacare, Family Pharmacare and Community Services Pharmacare programs. Patients with private insurance would continue to access that insurance.

The province is also announcing that patients who are currently receiving treatment for AMD with Avastin can also receive publicly funded therapy, if they and their physician wish to do so. People have been paying up to two-thousand dollars per injection for Lucentis therapy, usually requiring six or more injections a year. Avastin costs patients as much as five-hundred dollars per injection.

AMD is a chronic disease of the eye that affects central vision. It can cause blood and fluid to leak into the eye and lead to blindness.

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Media Contact:

Brett Loney
Department of Health 902-424-3034 E-mail: