Canadian health authorities have decided to increase national coverage of Humira (adalimumab) through its federal Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) program, which provides coverage to nearly one million status First Nations and Inuit peoples in Canada.
Now, patients in British Columbia, Ontario, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan and Yukon will have increased access to this treatment of moderate-to-severe active ulcerative colitis (UC) in patients who have had an inadequate response to conventional therapy.
UC is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that more specifically affects the colon. The disease is marked by inflammation and ulceration of the colon mucosa (its internal lining).
Conventional therapy usually consists of using corticosteroids, azathioprine and/or 6-mercaptopurine (6-MP). Humira is meant to be a therapeutic alternative for those who are also intolerant to any of these compounds.
Humira, developed by AbbVie, is an antibody (or protein) created to block the action of a molecule called tumor necrosis factor alpha (or TNFa). Immune cells produce TNFa to control inflammatory response, as part of the normal immune response process. In IBD, however, TNFa is produced in excess, which contributes to an inflammatory response that can become damaging.
By inhibiting TNFa, Humira not only alleviates symptoms of IBD but also leads to remission, potentially controlling the disease for a long time – usually called ‘sustained remission’.
Humira is one of the most extensively studied biologics available to IBD patients. The global clinical database for Humira spans 20 years across 13 indications, including over 100 clinical trials with more than 33,000 patients. Humira is approved in 90 countries and used by more than one million patients worldwide.
According to Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, there are about 104,000 Canadians living with UC today and nearly 4,500 new cases are diagnosed each year. Canada has among the world’s highest prevalence and incidence of IBD.
“The longstanding and extensive experience of HUMIRA® in Canada across numerous indications makes it an important option for those living with ulcerative colitis,” Stéphane Lassignardie, general manager of AbbVie Canada, said in a press release. “AbbVie is also committed to developing new advanced innovative therapies in immunology in order to address unmet medical needs.”
“This is great news because it improves public access to another treatment option for Canadians with ulcerative colitis,” added Brian Bressler, clinical associate professor of Medicine at the University of British Columbia. “In British Columbia in particular, this means HUMIRA is the only sub-cutaneous option covered by the government and having that treatment option is critical for patients.”
“Ulcerative colitis is a chronic and challenging disease to manage and patients need medications that work,” added Gail Attara, chief executive officer of the Gastrointestinal Society. “Ensuring coverage of these vital biologic medications for patients across the country is essential.”