JointHealth™ express   August 15, 2011

Good news for Canadians living with RA

It has been a busy summer with several provinces and Health Canada adding tocilizumab (Actemra®) to their formularies. In July, Alberta, Nova Scotia, and the Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) formularies began covering the cost of tocilizumab for the treatment of moderately to severely active rheumatoid arthritis. Then, this month, British Columbia added the medication.

Listing details can be found at the following links: Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick had added tocilizumab earlier in this year, which means that only three formularies have not listed the medication yet: Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, and the Yukon. Still, this is good news because it means that Canada is moving toward reimbursement equality for biologic therapy for people living with RA, and that ACE’s goal of “leveling the field” is rapidly achieving success.

Equal coverage throughout Canada and in each of the provinces and territories is vital because RA is a debilitating autoimmune disease that aggressively and progressively attacks and damages joints and the surrounding tissues. Left untreated, it causes irreversible damage, chronic pain, and loss of joint function, all of which result in a profoundly reduced quality of life and decreased life expectancy.

Tocilizumab belongs to the class of medications called "biologics" (short for biologic response modifiers), which target the specific pathways responsible for causing inflammation and joint destruction. Tocilizumab is the first medication designed to specifically inhibit or slow down the body's production of IL-6 (a protein that when overproduced promotes inflammation) and is effective at treating the symptoms and underlying disease process in rheumatoid arthritis.

Click here to view the most up-to-date version of ACE's Report Card on provincial formulary reimbursement listings for biologic response modifiers.