Canada Expands Public Health Coverage for PAH Therapy Uptravi

Vijaya Iyer, PhD avatar

by Vijaya Iyer, PhD |

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Five Canadian provinces, Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Newfoundland and Labrador, have approved public health insurance coverage for Uptravi (selexipag), a pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) therapy developed by Actelion.

Quebec was the first province to approve public funding for Uptravi in Canada, in March 2018.

The Pulmonary Hypertension Association of Canada (PHA Canada) and Scleroderma Canada acknowledged the governments of the five provinces for their efforts in expanding coverage.

“The voices of the PAH and scleroderma communities have been heard. We commend the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador, for joining Quebec and making Uptravi accessible through public funding,” Sanjay Mehta, MD, said in a press release. Mehta is director of Southwest Ontario pulmonary hypertension clinic at the London Health Sciences Center and board chair of the PHA Canada.

Dale Lien, MD, professor of medicine at University of Alberta added, “We are so pleased to now be able to tell our patients that Alberta has joined the expanding list of provinces providing public funding for Uptravi.”

This decision is the result of protracted price negotiations by the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance (pCPA). Representatives from all the 13 provinces, territories and the federal government in Canada form the pCPA.

PAH is a lung disease caused by high blood pressure in the arteries that carry blood to the lungs. It often is associated with an autoimmune disease of the connective tissue, scleroderma, which causes tightening and hardening of the skin and organs.

Uptravi — a vasodilator — was approved by Health Canada in early 2016 for the treatment of PAH. The drug slows the progression of PAH by improving connective tissue damage, and reduces the rate of hospitalization, according to clinical trial reports.

The Common Drug Review committee first recommended public funding for Uptravi in October 2016. Since then, Uptravi has been approved for public insurance coverage in six Canadian provinces.

Nonetheless, Mehta emphasized that “while these provinces have recognized the highly complex and serious nature of PAH, our work will not be done until the balance of patients in Canada has timely and equitable access to optimal treatment options.”

In light of this coverage expansion, 85 percent of Canadians now have access to publicly funded Uptravi.

“My world was turned upside down following my diagnosis with pulmonary arterial hypertension,” said Ladho S. Panesar-Chugger, a PAH patient in Markham, Ontario. “My life depends on adding a third medication to my treatment regime, and my specialist has been recommending Uptravi for many months. As an Ontarian who relies on public funding, I will now finally have access to it. That’s my wish for all Canadians like me.”