B.C. to cover cost of 'life-changing' drug for spinal muscular atrophy
Type 1 SMA, a neuromuscular disease, affects around 30 people in the province, mostly babies
B.C. will now cover a medication that treats Type 1 spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a rare neuromuscular disease affecting around 30 people in the province, most of whom are babies.
Type 1 SMA is generally diagnosed within the first seven months of life, and can lead to paralysis in infants.
The medication, called Spinraza, previously cost $708,000 per patient in the first year, and $354,000 for each year after that.
Patients with Type 2 and 3 SMA will receive the drug through BioGen, the pharmaceutical company that makes the drug, until there is more evidence to support giving it to all patients through the province.
In a press conference on Tuesday, health minister Adrian Dix called the drug "life changing."
"A very small number of people are afflicted with SMA. However, for that group of people and their parents, the effects are profound and enormously, enormously serious," he said.
"This is, obviously, for parents and for children an extraordinary and important decision."
Multiple layers of approval
Drugs seeking to be listed in Canada are approved through the Common Drug Review at the national level.
In B.C., they then go through the Drug Benefit Council, which assesses whether drugs should be covered by the province based on efficacy and value.
Spinraza was first approved by the Common Drug Review in November 2017.
Dix said some patients previously had access to the drug through a clinical trial at B.C. Children's Hospital, and that the province would take over coverage for those patients.
Dix wouldn't comment on the exact cost to the province, but said it would be in the "millions."
Spinraza is the only approved treatment for SMA.
With files from Anita Bathe