JointHealth™ express   June 24, 2013

More good news in Manitoba

Last week, we reported that golimumab (Simponi®) will be added to Manitoba’s drug plan formulary next month. Now for more good news: tocilizumab (Actemra®) for the treatment of systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis (sJIA) will also be included as of July 17.

Out of the one in 1000 children who are diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), 10 percent have the systemic (whole body) form of the disease. It is not only one of the rarest forms of JIA, it is also the most difficult to manage and very painful. Children with sJIA present quite ill with high fevers, rash, and organ inflammation along with joint inflammation.

Systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis can lead to life long disabilities, slowed growth, osteoporosis, and sometimes life-threatening complications. Tocilizumab is the first biological response modifier (“biologic”) that specifically treats sJIA by inhibiting or slowing down the body's production of IL-6, the protein responsible for causing damage.

We commend the province for adding tocilizumab because now children in Manitoba will have a treatment option where none in this class of medication existed before. The cost of the medication will be reimbursed for children with sJIA who are at least two years old who have not responded well to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and to systemic corticosteroids. As well, the financial burden on families already dealing with the stress and possible underemployment that may go with caring for a child at home, will be lightened.

The change will be reflected in July’s update of the JointHealth™ Report Card on provincial formulary reimbursement listings for biologic response modifiers.