People losing their eyesight due to diabetes will now get the medication they need to save their vision, the Department of Health told CBC News Friday.
The department said it will expand coverage of the drug Lucentis in the coming weeks. Until now, it was only available to people losing their eyesight due to age.
This is good news for people like Donna Larocque who has been a diabetic patient for 18 years and uses a magnifying glass to read. In June, she found out that her vision loss could be cured, for a price.
"It's like dangling a carrot in front of a horse, and you're moving along — you can see the goal, you can see the prize, but you just can't reach it," she said.
It costs more than $400 dollars per month, just for the fee to inject the drug into her eyes.
"I can't put a price on my eyesight, and I need to work," said Larocque, a continuing care assistant who worries that she will be unable to work if she loses her eyesight.
The cost of the drug is covered by Larocque’s health insurance. It's just the cost of the injection that's out of reach.
But Michelle Fudge with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind said she sees several Nova Scotians each week who aren't even covered for the cost to inject Lucentis
"It is very stressful because it is between the treatment that is advised, or losing their vision," she said.
When CBC News called the department to question why the injections weren’t covered for diabetics, Deputy Minister of Health and Wellness Kevin McNamara said those changes are coming.
"As I said, we will be expanding it in the next few weeks. I can't give you the exact date today, but we will be doing it as quickly as we can," he said.
Health Canada approved Lucentis for use by diabetics in 2011.
As for why the decision to expand funding is coming now, McNamara said: "We only fund drugs that are approved after a national review. Because so many drugs come out on the market, that may not be effective or may not be appropriate for certain diseases."
Larocque feels, for her, help can't come soon enough.
"I feel defeated. It's scary. Nobody wants to lose their sight," she said.
The department said the funding is not retroactive. It said about 700 people are expected to get coverage for Lucentis injections.
After CBC confirmed that the injections would be funded, CBC reporter Shaina Luck reached Larocque who said she was so happy, “she could cry.”