JointHealth™ express   May 20, 2011

Great news for residents of Prince Edward Island who live with arthritis

This week, the province of Prince Edward Island made considerable improvements to the PEI Pharmacare Formulary. In this month's Pharmacist Bulletin:
  • it is easier to get access to abatacept for rheumatoid arthritis (RA);
  • golimumab has been added for RA, ankylosing spondylitis (AS), and psoriatic arthritis (PsA); and
  • rituximab has been added for RA.
Abatacept is a biologic response modifier (or "biologic") used to treat rheumatoid arthritis in those who have an inadequate response to one or more Disease Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs (DMARDs). It is given by intravenous infusion at weeks 0, 2, and 4 and then every four weeks. Until now, abatacept's criteria were more vague, therefore more open to interpretation. Furthermore, the disease no longer has to be severely active and initial coverage is for a longer period (6 months now versus 12 weeks).

Golimumab is a biologic that targets the TNF-alpha molecule (also referred to as a TNF-blocker). Golimumab, given by injection every 4 weeks, is used to treat people with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and psoriatic arthritis who have had no response or an inadequate response to traditional therapies, such as DMARDs (DMARDs, like methotrexate alone or in combination with other DMARDs).

Rituximab is a biologic used to treat the symptoms and underlying disease process of RA. It is given intravenously 2 weeks after the first dose, and then again approximately nine months later. Until this week, PEI's formulary was the only one in Canada that did not cover rituximab for rheumatoid arthritis.

Since each person living with inflammatory forms of arthritis responds differently to the available medications, no single biologic therapy is effective in all individuals. Treatment, like disease experience, is unique in each person, so it is important to have as many options as possible.

These changes to PEI's formulary are reflected in Arthritis Consumer Experts' Report Card on provincial formulary reimbursement listings for biologic modifiers.

ACE congratulates PEI for approaching other provinces in offering physicians and patients the tools they need to treat inflammatory forms of arthritis. These changes mean that Canada is moving closer to reimbursement equality in biologic therapies and toward Leveling the Field in Canada.