Friday, October 05, 2007

ALZHEIMER'S DRUG STUDY IN B.C.

B.C. COMMITS $70 MILLION

TO ALZHEIMER’S DRUG STUDY

VICTORIA – As the lead funding partner in a new $78-million study of the effectiveness of Alzheimer’s medications, the Province will provide PharmaCare coverage of three cholinesterase inhibitors for the first time, Premier Gordon Campbell announced today.

“The Alzheimer’s Drug Therapy Initiative will gather clear, clinical evidence on who will benefit from these drugs and what the benefit will be for people in the mild to moderate stages of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Campbell. “This research will help us ensure people affected by Alzheimer’s disease get the best care and treatment, so they, their caregivers and families enjoy the highest possible quality of life.”

The Alzheimer’s Drug Therapy Initiative, which begins this month, is expected to last up to three years and involve more than 25,000 British Columbians diagnosed with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

“Alzheimer’s patients who participate in the study will have their drug costs covered,” said Health Minister George Abbott. “Through their participation, we will gather the additional evidence we need to make a decision on whether to add the drugs to our PharmaCare formulary and, if so, under what criteria.”

Clinical evidence to date indicates that cholinesterase inhibitors appear to work best in the early and moderate stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Data collected through the research study will be used to address the gaps in evidence on the effectiveness of cholinesterase inhibitors, identify characteristics of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease who may benefit from treatment with these drugs, and evaluate the resulting impact on caregivers.

The research initiative is a partnership involving the Province, the Alzheimer Society of B.C., the University of Victoria, UBC and drug manufacturers. Based on early analyses, the Province estimates the cost at $78 million over three years, including approximately $70 million from the Province and $8 million expected to be contributed by drug manufacturers.

“With people increasingly diagnosed in the early stages of dementia, it’s critical that those with the disease have access to the right medications at the right time,” said Rosemary Rawnsley, executive director of the Alzheimer Society of B.C. “Quality of life for people with the disease and their caregivers is paramount, and this initiative will help provide solid direction to ensure the resources available are used effectively.”

Alzheimer’s disease, a degenerative brain disorder whose symptoms include loss of memory, judgment and reasoning as well as changes in mood and behaviour, is the most common form of dementia. While some patients may live up to 20 years after diagnosis, the average life expectancy is between eight and 12 years.

The Alzheimer Society of B.C. reports that approximately 64,000 people in British Columbia currently suffer from some form of dementia. That number is expected to grow to more than 74,000 over the next five years.

The Alzheimer’s Drug Therapy Initiative is one of a number of projects the Province has committed to that will positively impact people affected by dementia. Other programs include a Dementia Services Framework, which brings together various stakeholders to improve care and services for those with dementia. In June, the Ministry of Health announced $1 million in funding for the Alzheimer Society of B.C. to support a number of innovative projects that are being implemented to support the framework. In April 2006, Premier Campbell announced $15 million for the Pacific Alzheimer Research Foundation to support new research aimed at eliminating dementia.

Investing in mental health‑related services is part of government’s Pacific Leadership Agenda to improve the health of citizens and renew the public health system.

Those interested in getting more information on how to participate in the Alzheimer’s Drug Therapy Initiative should visit www.health.gov.bc.ca online.


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