Uptravi (selexipag) is now available with public funding for pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) patients in Canada living in nine of the country’s 1o provinces, patient groups announced.
The governments of British Columbia and Nova Scotia recently added Uptravi to their publicly funded medicines — likely making Actelion’s PAH therapy accessible to eligible patients at low or no cost. These two provinces are now in line with similar coverage decisions made by leaders in Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, Quebec, and Saskatchewan.
According to the patient groups, successful negotiations regarding Uptravi’s price, conducted through the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance (pCPA) and concluded in December 2017, made the treatment’s inclusion possible.
Uptravi was approved by Health Canada in January 2016, becoming the third PAH therapy available for patients in the country, and it was recommended for public funding in October of that year. (The others are Opsumit (macitentan), also by Actelion, and Adempas (riociguat), by Bayer.)
Healthcare is organized by the respective governments of each province (which includes Prince Edward Island) and the three territories in Canada, and while most services are standard and funded across them, some — like prescription medicine coverage and vision or dental care — vary.
The Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA) of Canada (PHA Canada) and Scleroderma Canada acknowledged the provincial governments for their efforts in expanding and facilitating access to Uptravi, noting its greater availability will benefit patients.
“We are thankful that the voices of the PAH and scleroderma communities have been heard. Today, we celebrate the accessibility of Uptravi through public funding from coast to coast,” Jamie Myrah, executive director of PAH Canada, said in a press release.
“We have always believed that PAH patients should have equitable and timely access to optimal treatment options in order to manage their disease. We are thrilled that this is now the case for the vast majority of Canadians in need of Uptravi,” Myrah added.
Uptravi, first discovered and synthesized by Nippon Shinyaku, is an oral, prostacyclin receptor agonist. It mimics the effects of prostacyclin, selectively targets the prostacyclin receptor found on the cells that line blood vessels, inducing vasodilation. It also works to stop the remodeling of those cells that leads to further increases in pressure.
Clinical trial data have shown that Uptravi can effectively slow PAH progression, lowering hospitalization rates among patients and improving their physical capacities.
“Because of the highly complex and serious nature of PAH, specialists need the ability to prescribe optimal treatment options and offer the individualized care required to improve and extend the lives of our patients, no matter where they live in Canada,” said Sanjay Mehta, MD, director of the Southwest Ontario Pulmonary Hypertension Clinic at the London Health Sciences Center in London, Ontario, and board chair for PHA Canada.
“We are so pleased to be able to tell our patients that Uptravi is now accessible through public funding in almost every province,” Mehta added.
The approval of public funding in two more provinces in Canada is one more “step in the right direction,” said Maureen Sauve, vice president of public relations and advocacy at Scleroderma Canada, noting the challenges PAH patients face in managing their disease.
“Our communities will continue to urge all governments to ensure all Health Canada-approved treatment options are accessible to those in need,” she added.
More information is available at TakeActionPAH.ca.