Health Monitor

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Albertans suffering from age-related vision loss will have a less expensive treatment option as part of a new program announced this week.

Health Minister Sarah Hoffman announced Wednesday that a less-expensive but equally effective alternative to current treatment for blinding retinal conditions like macular degeneration would be available to Albertans.

The Retina Anti-Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Program for Intraocular Disease, launched in conjunction with the Retina Society of Alberta, is expected to save the province up to $46 million over three years, and save affected seniors $300 annually.

“Albertans want and expect superior-quality care and more choices about their treatment,” she said. “This program aims to meet those expectations.”

Currently the drug used for the treatment is the Lucentis. It costs $1,575 per monthly treatment, of which the patients pays $25 or $300 a year. The new alternative being introduced, Avastin, costs between $13 and $50 per treatment, and the patient won’t be required to pay. The move is expected to save the province between $23 million and $46 million over three years.

Both drugs are manufactured by the same company but only Lucentis is currently approved by Health Canada for this treatment.

Hoffman explained manufacturers must apply to have their drugs approved to treat particular illnesses, and suggested the application was never made for Avastin because Lucentis is more profitable to the company.

Avastin is now being used for this treatment in seven Canadian provinces, and has been in use in British Columbia since 2009.

The provincial transportation department is reminding Albertans that wearing a seatbelt and having children in proper car seats can significantly reduce the risk of serious injury.

Alberta Transportation recommends children younger than one year old and who aren’t walking independently should be in a rear-facing seat, kids younger than six should remain in a forward-facing seat as long as they meet the manufacturer’s weight and height guidelines, children younger than nine should be in booster seats, and children younger than 12 should sit in the back seat.

Wearing seatbelts and using proper seats can reduce the risk of death or serious injury by as much as 65 per cent, Minister Brian Mason said in a media release.

Canadian health researchers will get a $4.2-million funding boost from the Arthritis Society as part of its annual funding commitment.

Twenty-one projects will be funded with the money, including projects looking at reprogramming immune cells to reverse osteoarthritis, saving knees from arthritis after ligament injuries, improving cognitive health for lupus patients and stopping osteoarthritis using a specific protein.

An estimated 4.6 million Canadians, nearly one in eight, suffer from arthritis.

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