Nov. 16, 2009
SAINT JOHN (CNB) - The provincial government is investing $300,000 to purchase new retinal surgery equipment, and is making a new prescription drug available for neovascular (wet) age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in Canada.
"Hundreds of New Brunswick residents will enjoy improved eyesight and quality of life with the availability of Lucentis through our publicly funded drug program, and hundreds more will benefit from receiving retinal surgery here in the province," said Health Minister Mary Schryer.
Schryer was joined by officials from Horizon Health Network, CNIB, and the St. Joseph's Hospital Foundation as she announced the investment and the addition of Lucentis as a benefit for prescription drug program beneficiaries.
"CNIB applauds the Government of New Brunswick's decision to make Lucentis available under the prescription drug program, and to invest in retinal surgery equipment that will improve the quality of life for New Brunswickers who are blind or partially sighted," said Ross McKean, CNIB board member.
Lucentis has been shown to maintain and even improve vision for those affected by AMD, a condition affecting central vision in individuals typically aged 50 and older.
The retinal surgery program was established this year at St. Joseph's with an initial investment of $550,000 from the provincial government for ongoing operational costs. Before the program was established, New Brunswickers had to travel out of the province for retinal surgery.
The St. Joseph's Hospital Foundation donated a $90,000 optical coherence tomography (OCT) machine for use in the program.
Robert Boyce, chairman of the St. Joseph's Hospital Foundation Board, acknowledged the community's generosity and support in purchasing the OCT machine for the eye clinic.
"As a foundation to support St. Joseph's, we are proud to have partnered in this project," said Boyce. "The investment by the province, our foundation and the community has once again helped St. Joseph's respond to the health-care needs of our community."
"Establishing and advancing the retinal surgery program at St. Joseph's Hospital has and will continue to augment the accessibility and quality of health care for the residents of New Brunswick, and for those patients that Horizon Health Network serves," said Donald J. Peters, president and CEO of Horizon Health Network. "This is a tremendous enhancement to the services provided already by the ophthalmology department at the facility, and I am pleased to see the continuing efforts and strides made to improve health-care delivery in our province."
About 150 New Brunswickers will benefit from the retinal surgery program each year.
An estimated 230 residents will be eligible to receive Lucentis under the publicly funded drug program within the first year of availability. The total cost of treatment depends on the number of injections a patient receives, and could range from $10,000 - $15,000 annually.
The New Brunswick Drug Prescription Program provides subsidized drug coverage to an estimated 100,000 New Brunswick residents, including low-income seniors, residents of nursing homes, clients of the Department of Social Development, and others with certain medical conditions.
MEDIA CONTACTS: Sonya Gilks, communications, Department of Health, 506-453-2536; Clarissa Andersen, communications, Horizon Health Network, 506-648-6116; Catherine Kieran, manager of communications, CNIB, 902-497-6970.