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Opposition NDP urges Alberta government not to switch drugs for some patients – rdnewsnow.com

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Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced a month ago that 26,000 patients already getting provincially funded biologic drugs would gradually be switched to biosimilar ones.

Biologics are complex drugs derived from living cells. Biosimilars mimic the original drugs but are based on expired patents and can be delivered at less cost.

The government notes Health Canada has signed off on switching to biosimilars as safe and effective, and that similar policies are in place in the United Kingdom, Poland, Norway and Austria.

Shandro has said Alberta is also following the lead of British Columbia and Manitoba and expects the move to save up to $380 million over the next four years. Added savings are expected as more biosimilar drugs come on the market.

Crohn’s and Colitis Canada has said the switch could lead to adverse reactions in some patients. Some of the people with Shepherd on Wednesday expressed the same worry.

Wilma Ritter, diagnosed at age four with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, said the biologic drug Remicade has allowed her to avoid a life of dependency.

“Now I can walk. I work. I live independently without any supports. Now I pay income tax instead of getting the government to give me money to live,” she said.

“Being forced to stop using Remicade is putting my stability as a person with an autoimmune disorder at risk. Switching to a biosimilar will not work for everyone. And there is also no way to predict who it will work for and who it will not.”

Shepherd said the government is wrong to make the change mandatory for existing patients.

RELATED: IBD patients “scared as hell” by UCP-proposed drug changes

RELATED: IBD patients say they weren’t consulted on forced switch to biosimilars

“It’s important to introduce biosimilars (to new patients),” he said. “I recognize that there are indeed costs that we need to reckon with and I think it’s reasonable for government to move forward.

“My disagreement is with the manner in which it is moving forward… chaotic, rushed, not thought through, not considering long-term potential consequences.”

Shandro, in a statement, said that keeping existing patients on biologics is unnecessary and ultimately self-defeating.

“There is no scientific evidence that switching to biosimilars puts patients at added risk; there is overwhelming evidence that biosimilars are clinically equivalent to biologics,” he said.

“Grandfathering patients currently on biologics would cancel almost all the savings we’re projecting …. Those savings are all to be reinvested in the health system.”

The plan is to have the 26,000 patients switched over by July 1. The change will not affect patients on private drug plans or those paying out of pocket. It is not to apply to pregnant women or children.

Patients will be able to apply for medical exemptions, which could be granted following a review by doctors, to prevent a switch.

The province says its spending on biologics has been soaring over the last five years. It says the cost has been growing an average of 16 per cent a year and reached $238 million in 2018-19.

It says that biologics represent almost one-fifth of the government’s total spending on drugs provided to fewer than two per cent of patients.

(Dean Bennett)

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KFL&A reports 34 new COVID-19 cases, 304 active – Globalnews.ca

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The Kingston region is once again over the 300 active cases mark, as Wednesday’s 34 new cases bring the daily active case count to 304.

Of the new cases, 10 are in the five-to-11 age group.

Nineteen people remain in hospital, with 11 of those cases are in the intensive care unit. Six people are on ventilators.

Read more:

COVID-19 — Influx of cases causing strain on Kingston hospitals

The cases per 100,000 over the past week is up slightly to 104.7, from 102.8 Tuesday.

The rise in cases locally has also forced the postponing of at least one local event. The Marine Museum of the Great Lakes was scheduled to have its grand opening on Dec. 5 from 2 to 4 p.m.

“As the coronavirus pandemic continues to have significant impacts throughout our communities, the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes at Kingston is committed to supporting the community through this time of heightened risk and uncertainty,” the Marine Museum said in a statement Wednesday.

“We consider the safety of our staff, volunteers and visitors paramount.”


Click to play video: 'As Covid-19 cases rise in the Kingston region the community reacts'



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As Covid-19 cases rise in the Kingston region the community reacts


As Covid-19 cases rise in the Kingston region the community reacts

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Roussin takes aim at HIV stigma – Brandon Sun

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Wednesday was World AIDS Day and the province is getting behind the message to end the stigma of the disease.

There were 117 new cases of HIV identified in the province in 2020, slightly fewer than in 2019.

“Even though there are fewer cases, there was also significantly less testing,” Dr. Brent Roussin, the province’s chief public health officer, said Wednesday.

“Around 25 per cent of people with HIV are unaware they have it, and that can contribute to the spread.”

The stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS continues to be a significant public health issue in the province. Roussin said the populations most at risk are also facing problems of accessibility caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Roussin urged people who may be at risk to get regular testing and speak to their health-care providers regarding prevention, testing and treatment options.

All these services are confidential and free of charge.

Those living with HIV are also encouraged to stay connected to care and treatments.

Roussin said it is considered a chronic infection and there are effective treatments for HIV, with many being able to get the virus level down to undetectable levels and minimizing risk of transmitting it to other people.

» The Brandon Sun

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COVID-19 vaccines: 18% of Ottawa kids 5-11 have 1st doses – Globalnews.ca

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Nearly 14,000 Ottawa kids have gotten their first COVID-19 vaccine shots in their first week of eligibility, according to the local health unit.

Ottawa Public Health’s COVID-19 dashboard reports that 13,887 kids aged five to 11, representing 18 per cent of the total age group in the city, have their initial shots as of Wednesday morning.

Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s medical officer of health, said earlier this week that 40 per cent of local kids in this youngest eligible demographic have appointments booked through the provincial vaccination system. This doesn’t account for shots booked at pharmacies or doctors’ offices.

Read more:

No need for new restrictions yet in Ottawa amid Omicron cases, Dr. Etches says

City-wide, 86 per cent of the population aged five and older now have at least one dose.

Meanwhile, OPH reported 50 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, surpassing the 32,000-case mark since the start of the pandemic.

The number of active infections held relatively steady at 329 in the latest report.

There are now 11 people in hospital with COVID-19 in Ottawa, two of whom are in the intensive care unit.


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