TORONTO, May 15, 2009/CNW – Patients in Ontario living with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), a serious lung disorder, received a substantial piece of good news with a recent decision by the Ontario Public Drug Programs (OPDP). The decision also serves to highlight that more needs to be done to ensure greater access to treatments so that all patients can achieve the maximum possible benefit and opportunity to extend their lives.
Left untreated, PAH has a poor prognosis and can lead to death in as little as two to three years from diagnosis. It is often diagnosed at an advanced stage when survival rates are poor, thus timely access to all proven treatment options is critical to ensure patients the best chance for maximum benefit.
This new OPDP decision removes restrictions imposed a year ago that required doctors to follow a set procedure in prescribing different treatments in a particular order, rather than allowing them to choose the medication they felt would be of most immediate benefit to the patient.
“This critical change shows that the Ontario government is committed to putting patients first by improving access to approved medications for PAH patients in the Province of Ontario,” said Darren Bell, President, Pulmonary Hypertension Association of Canada. “However, further lifting of restrictions is needed to allow doctors to prescribe more than one treatment in combination to best serve some patients.” The OPDP will currently only reimburse one PAH drug at a time, even though PAH specialists feel some patients would benefit from attacking this terrible disease by using approved medications in combination to optimize the patient’s response to treatment.
“Timely access to all treatment options is critical so patients can enjoy a better quality of life and have the best hope for longer survival,” added Dr Sanjay Mehta, Respirologist, Director, Southwest Ontario Pulmonary Hypertension Clinic, London, Ontario. “The recent OPDP decision regarding PAH medications restores the ability of doctors to make treatment decisions in the best interests of their PAH patients.” The OPDP change is also important for patients with a condition known as scleroderma, who are at high risk for developing pulmonary arterial hypertension.
“PAH is the leading cause of death for patients with scleroderma. Up to 15% of our patients develop this complication,” said Maureen Sauve, President, Scleroderma Society of Ontario (www.sclerodermaontario.ca). “We are thankful that the Ontario government listened to our concerns and that our patients will have access to appropriate treatments that may not only improve their quality of life, but can increase their life expectancy.”