Quebec Province Agrees to Public Health Insurance Coverage of PAH Therapy Uptravi

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by Diogo Pinto |

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Quebec to cover Uptravi

Canada’s Quebec Province has agreed to provide public health insurance coverage of Actelion‘s pulmonary arterial hypertension therapy Uptravi (selexipag).

The pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance (pCPA), a group that represents Canada’s provinces in trying to keep drug costs in line, played a key role in the price negotiations on Uptravi that led to Quebec’s decision. The drug is now accessible to all PAH patients in the province.

PAH is characterized by high blood pressure in the lungs that leads to the right side of the heart becoming enlarged and weak. It is commonly associated with systemic scleroderma (SSc), an auto-immune disease of the connective tissue that causes hardening and thickening of the skin and internal organs.

In clinical trials, Uptravi was shown to help delay PAH progression and decrease the risk of hospitalization.

In January 2016, Uptravi was approved by Health Canada as a treatment for PAH. Later that year, an expert committee known as the Common Drug Review group recommended its public funding.

“In October 2016, Uptravi was recommended for public funding in Canada because it provides an important option for PAH patients whose disease is not being adequately controlled with a first- and second-line therapy, and for those who are unable to receive continuous intravenous or subcutaneous infusion therapy due to the burden and risks involved. Today, we are gratified that Quebec has acted on that recommendation by providing public funding for Uptravi,” Sanjay Mehta, director of the Southwest Ontario Pulmonary Hypertension Clinic and board chair of the Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA) of Canada, said in a press release.

“The severe and progressive nature of PAH means that patients must have timely access to all Health Canada-approved treatments for PAH in order to individualize their treatment to improve and extend their lives,” Mehta added.

PHA Canada and Scleroderma Canada expressed enthusiasm for the Quebec decision.

“I am thrilled with our government’s decision to make Uptravi accessible through public funding. This is a major victory for scleroderma patients affected by PAH in Quebec,” said Diane Collard, director general of Sclérodermie Québec. “Congratulations to everyone who has worked hard in support of this initiative, and thanks to the Government of Quebec for making the right decision and supporting those affected by PAH, including systemic scleroderma-PAH.”

There is no cure for PAH, and the prognosis remains poor, despite a range of treatments available in Canada. After a PAH diagnosis, the average adult survives only five to seven years. The figure is three years for patients with SSc-associated PAH.

Judith Moatti, administrator of the Fondation Hypertension artérielle pulmonaire Québec (HTAPQ) and a PAH patient, said: “Today’s announcement is important to me for two reasons. First, I am happy that all PAH patients in Quebec who can benefit from Uptravi will now have access to this important treatment option. Second, as a patient, I will personally benefit from this decision, which is a huge relief.

“The Government of Quebec has once again demonstrated its leadership when it comes to ensuring public access to innovative treatments for this rare disease. I now invite other provincial and territorial governments across Canada to follow Quebec’s lead and move swiftly to provide immediate publicly funded access to Uptravi, so all PAH patients can have access to this treatment,” Moatti added.

A Conversation With Rare Disease Advocates