Arthritis Consumer Experts

November 14, 2007
For Immediate Release

Birthplace of Medicare no longer provides equal access for arthritis patients

(Regina, SK) — As Saskatchewan residents usher in their newly minted government, Cheryl Koehn, President of Arthritis Consumer Experts (ACE), called on MLAs to protect the principles of Medicare.

"A recent decision by Saskatchewan Health not to list medically necessary treatments for arthritis patients has created a second class of citizen in this province," said Koehn. "We must fight to protect quality of life for the millions of patients across Canada who suffer from the burdens of this disease - starting here, where the very ideas our national public health care system is founded on, were born."

On October 7, 2007, Saskatchewan Health decided against listing three biologic treatments for the treatment of ankylosing spondylitis. As a result, people living in Saskatchewan with this inflammatory disease have absolutely no access to biologic medications to manage their disease. This decision is in direct contravention of recommendations provided by the Common Drug Review (CDR).

"This decision flies in the face of all evidence-based decision making. We must protect the basic human rights of all Canadians, regardless of which province they live in," continued Koehn.

Ankylosing Spondylitis affects one in every two hundred Canadians, typically between the ages of 15 and 40. It is a chronic inflammatory form of arthritis that attacks the spine.

"Physicians in Saskatchewan are not being provided with the treatment tools they need to help patients best manage their disease and maintain their quality of life," said Dr. John Esdaile, Professor and Head, Division of Rheumatology Department of Medicine, University of British Columbia, and Scientific Director of the Arthritis Research Centre of Canada. "The research data tells us that anti-TNF biologic response modifiers are the only effective medications available to treat the most severe forms of ankylosing spondylitis, and this treatment has been vetoed by Saskatchewan Health to the detriment of patients across the province."

Koehn noted that particularly with this form of arthritis, the province's workforce is at risk of losing significant efficiency.

"Given the age group most commonly affected by this disease, long-term quality of life and workforce productivity are gravely affected by Saskatchewan Health's recent decision. It is time that all Arthritis patients in Canada enjoyed the same basic human rights as those living with other diseases. We must ensure that physicians are provided with the tools they so desperately need," concluded Koehn.

About ACE

Arthritis Consumer Experts (ACE) is a national organization that provides research-based information and education to Canadians with arthritis. 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, set out by an advisory board comprised of leading scientists, medical professionals and informed arthritis activists.

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For more information:

Quincey Kirschner
(778) 847-9793

Diana Arajs
(416) 669-0910