New Brunswick adds Albrioza for ALS to its public health plan
Patients in 4 Canadian provinces now eligible for reimbursement of oral therapy
New Brunswick is reimbursing, through its public health insurance program, the cost of Albrioza (sodium phenylbutyrate and ursodoxicoltaurine) for eligible residents living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
The Canadian province is the country’s fourth to provide public coverage for the oral therapy — marketed in the U.S. as Relyvrio. Similar reimbursement decisions recently were announced in Ontario and Quebec, followed by British Columbia.
“We sincerely appreciate the New Brunswick government’s collaboration and support in providing public coverage for Albrioza, to make timely treatment possible for individuals living with ALS,” Chris Aiello, general manager and head of Canada at Amylyx Pharmaceuticals, the therapy’s developer, said in a company press release.
“Recognizing the speed at which this devastating disease progresses, our aim is to ensure equitable access to this treatment for all eligible Canadians, regardless of their location,” Aiello said. “We are actively working with other provincial, territorial, and federal drug plans to expedite the process and make it a reality as quickly as possible.”
ALS oral treatment given conditional approval in Canada in 2022
Previously called AMX0035, Albrioza is an oral therapy containing a combination of two molecules that are thought to help reduce damage to nerve cells. It was granted conditional approval in Canada for treating people with ALS in June 2022, based on clinical trial data suggesting it can slow ALS progression and prolong survival.
The medication also is approved for ALS patients in the U.S., while a European Union committee recommended against conditional approval last month. Amylix plans to request a formal reconsideration of its application before the European Commission makes a final decision.
Albrioza has been available in Canada commercially for nearly a year, but only recently have patients begun to gain access to reimbursement formulas through public health insurance programs, run by each province and territory individually.
Announcements of reimbursement deals, in New Brunswick and elsewhere, come on the heels of Amylyx finalizing an agreement with the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance, a government agency that collaborates with the country’s provinces and territories in establishing public drug plan funding of approved medications.
Advocates welcome news, but argue for therapy’s inclusion in plans nationwide
Advocates welcomed the decision, though they emphasized the importance of making the therapy available at lower cost to ALS patients throughout Canada.
“We applaud the government of New Brunswick for its decision to offer public coverage” for Albrioza, as “it is of utmost importance that eligible individuals can promptly access approved treatments,” said Kimberly Carter, president and CEO of the ALS Society of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
“We express our hope that other public drug plans, especially those in Atlantic Canada, will follow suit in making this treatment accessible,” Carter added. “This will ensure that Canadians dependent on public coverage will have the opportunity to benefit from this innovative treatment.”
ALS patients “critically need timely access to treatment,” said Colleen O’Connell, MD, medical director and research chief at Horizon’s Stan Cassidy Centre for Rehabilitation in New Brunswick.
“With few existing treatment options for ALS, I and others in the community are eager to hear news of Albrioza’s listing on other public drug plans to enable wider access to this treatment and greater hope for people living with this disease,” O’Connell added.
In Canada, prescription drugs are provided at no charge to all hospitalized patients. For others, each province and territory’s public health insurance plan can cover at least part of a prescription drug that’s included in its plan.