Good First Step Forward for New Anticoagulant That Offers Patients with AF Better Stroke Prevention

OTTAWA, April 3, 2013 /Canada NewsWire/ - The Stroke Survivors Association of Ottawa welcomes the recent positive recommendation by the Common Drug Review (CDR) which recommends that provinces pay for Eliquis (apixaban) to prevent strokes in people with atrial fibrillation (AF), a heart disorder which greatly increases the risk of disabling and fatal strokes.

Eliquis is a new anti-blood clotting therapy which was approved by Health Canada in December 2012. This recommendation for Eliquis by the CDR represents an important milestone and is key for patients in order for them to have access to it through their provincial public drug plan.

"The positive CDR recommendation is a good first step in the process of getting access for patients, but it is not binding so we need provinces to move quickly to put the recommendation into effect for the benefit of patients," said Janet McTaggart, Executive Director of the Stroke Survivors Association of Ottawa. "The more Canadians with AF who are on effective anti-blood clotting therapy, the fewer disabling and fatal strokes we will have. It's vital the provinces move quickly."

Disconnect with Canadian guidelines

While the CDR recognizes the newer stroke prevention treatments, their use is recommended only after patients have tried and failed on the older and more difficult to use therapy warfarin despite the latest clinical practice guidelines. The Canadian Cardiology Society's (CCS) guidelines for Canadian doctors to prevent stroke in people with AF say anyone requiring an oral therapy should be started on one of the newer drugs, not warfarin. Though warfarin can be effective, it has some drawbacks such as complicated administration and monitoring which, along with other factors, have contributed to many AF patients either not being treated or not adequately treated and putting them at risk for stroke.

"We are very concerned that the CDR is not urging provinces to pay for drugs to match the guidelines set by Canada's cardiologists," added Ms. McTaggart. "We understand there are cost considerations for drug budgets to pay for the new drugs, but every stroke we can prevent saves many thousands of dollars for the health system, not to mention the emotional and financial impact on patients and their families. These new treatments are our first major new hope in years to be able to reduce the number of preventable strokes in people with AF and we are optimistic that the provinces make decisions that are consistent with CCS recommendations."

About Stroke and Atrial Fibrillation in Canada

Approximately 50,000 strokes occur in Canada each year and 14,000 Canadians die from stroke each year. About 315,000 Canadians are living with the after-effects of a stroke. Atrial fibrillation (AF) affects about 350,000 Canadians and causes a five-fold increase in the risk of stroke due to inconsistent blood flow which can allow blood clots to form. As a result, 15 per cent of all strokes are in people with AF. In those older than 60, one third of all strokes occur in people with AF. Strokes in people with AF tend to be more severe, with a death rate twice as high as that of strokes unrelated to AF and resulting in more severe disabilities.

About Stroke Survivors Association of Ottawa

Stroke Survivors Association of Ottawa (SSAO) provides stroke survivors, their families, caregivers, professionals and the general public with a wide variety of support services, community re-engagement, advocacy, education and other programs. As well, SSAO has connections to many Ottawa and surrounding area stroke supports.