Canada’s Drug Review Board Recommends Lucentis

Lucentis, an anti-VEGF drug for treating wet macular degeneration has been recommended by Canada’s drug review board the Common Drug Review Committee (CDR).  This board recommends funding of the first ever medication clinically proven to improve vision and restore quality of life in patients diagnosed with macular degeneration.

By recommending the drug Lucentis, the CDR has sent a message to the provincial health authorities across Canada.  With this recommendation to cover the cost of Lucentis, Canadians diagnosed with the leading cause of age related vision loss, wet macular degeneration (AMD), are one step closer today to real hope for vision improvement.

The Common Drug Review (CDR), Canada’s national drug review process, has recommended today that provincial drug plans list the innovative treatment Lucentis (ranibizumab) as a treatment for macular degeneration. The positive CDR recommendation for Lucentis is a critical step forward.

The Common Drug Review (CDR) recommended today that provincial drug plans across Canada should cover the cost of the drug Lucentis.  Lucentis is a drug produced by Genentech and is used to cover wet macular degeneration.  In making the recommendation to the provinces, the CDR recommended limiting treatments of Lucentis to 15 vials to treat the “better seeing eye”.

While Lucentis was approved by Health Canada in the Fall of 2007 as a treatment for wet macular degeneration, provincial health care authorities were slow to provide funding.  However, shortly after Lucentis’ approval by Health Canada, Quebec added coverage to its provincial drug plan and Ontario followed suit in early 2008.

Lucentis has been shown to be very effective in stabilizing and even improving sight in some patients that suffer from the wet form of age-related macular degeneration.  However this drug costs approximately $1,600 per injection and requires monthly injections indefinitely.  Each vial of Lucentis contains enough Lucentis for six injections.

Up until the approval of Lucentis, doctors in Canada were using Avastin (a colorectal cancer drug) in treating wet macular degeneration.  This use was considered “off-label” and was not covered under any provincial drug plans.  However, Avastin costs only a fraction when compared to Lucentis and is considered as effective as the approved drug.

This recommendation clearly sends a message to the provincial authorities:  it is time to provide a viable and insured mechanism to treat age-related macular degeneration, one of the leading causes of vision loss among older Canadians.  With Lucentis being the leading drug to treat age-related macular degeneration, it makes sense to provide coverage across Canada.

Lucentis is currently funded in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

April 2009 Update

Lucentis is now covered in the the following provinces:

  • Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Quebec
  • Ontario
  • Sasketchewan
  • British Columbia

Please consult your local health care authority for details in these provinces as each have criteria and conditions for providing funding for Lucentis treatments for macular degeneration.