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Inequities of Access to Disease-Modifying Therapies for People with MS Highlighted by Conference Board of Canada Report

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Toronto – A report released today by the Conference Board of Canada supported by the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada finds that many Canadians living with multiple sclerosis (MS) can’t get sufficient, equitable, or affordable access to disease-modifying therapies (DMTs). Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world with 12 Canadians, on average, diagnosed with the disease each day. The report, Accessing Disease-Modifying Therapies for Multiple Sclerosis: A Pan-Canadian Analysis shows that many of them face regulatory, administrative, and financial barriers to access life-changing DMTs.

 “Timely access to DMTs for people living with MS can help to delay the onset of disability,” said Monika Slovinec D’Angelo, Director of Health at The Conference Board of Canada. “More broadly, it can lessen the financial strain placed on Canada’s healthcare system and lead to improved economic productivity.”

The report highlights the following:

  • DMTs can reduce the frequency and severity of relapses and slow the progression of disability and new brain lesions in MS patients.
  • Utilization patterns of DMTs changed significantly over the past decade as new oral and higher-efficacy drugs arrived on the market.
  • Between 2010 and 2018, the number of DMT claims grew by half. Reimbursement costs rose accordingly, from $386.9 million in 2010 to $607 million in 2018.
  • Over half of DMTs are claimed through private drug plans and 41 per cent are covered publicly. Seven per cent are paid for out-of-pocket. In 2018, this represented $39.3 million in spending for individuals and their families.
  • When a family member is affected by MS, that household faces a greater financial burden than the average Canadian household. Out-of-pocket costs vary by choice of treatment, province, and prescription drug coverage.
  • Public access to new and innovative DMTs lags behind access through private drug coverage.
  • Improving timely, affordable, and equitable access to DMTs will lead to better outcomes for people living with MS. Health care systems and society at large also stand to gain.

“MS is a unique disease, no two individuals share the same disease course, trajectory, or symptom profile. As every individuals’ experience of MS is distinct, so too is their response to available DMTs,” said Dr. Julie Petrin, diagnosed with MS in 2006. “For optimal care outcomes, personalized treatment, with access to the full span of Health Canada approved DMTs, is crucial.”

“Access to Health Canada approved DMTs is key to maintaining positive health outcomes for people with MS,” said Pamela Valentine, President and CEO, MS Society of Canada. “We know that early intervention is vital to avoid many of the long-term economic and personal costs that result from unnecessary irreversible disability. For brain health, time matters in MS.”

The Conference Board of Canada’s research concludes that improving access will benefit not only people living with MS but also the health care systems and the economy. For many individuals living with MS, DMTs offer measurable therapeutic effects, and in some cases, delaying the accumulation of disability. Our advocacy work focuses on ensuring that the needs of people with MS and their families are at the centre of health and drug policy decisions. As part of our strategic plan, we work to advance treatment and care to ensure a variety of effective treatment and care options are available for symptom management, wellness and self-care to help people on their unique MS journey. This report is critical to informing our advocacy efforts as well as discussions with policy makers regarding timely, affordable, equitable and appropriate access from the perspective of Canadians living with MS.

Download a copy of the report here.

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