Category: Uncategorized

White Cane Week Media

Feb 17 2016

Below are interviews from white can week.

Nova Scotia Health Authority (Central Zone) Diversity Bursary: Deadline February 5, 2016

Jan 06 2016

The Nova Scotia Health Authority (Central Zone)  is taking steps to create a more diverse workforce that better represents the communities we serve. Post-secondary students who identify as African Nova Scotian, Aboriginal, immigrant or a person with a disability are invited to apply for a diversity bursary. Students must be:

  • Continuing studies in a health profession
  • Attending a Canadian post-secondary institution that is recognized by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada
  • A resident of Halifax Regional Municipality or West Hants with an intention to practice in the area.


Applications are available at  For more information please contact Anna Jacobs,, (902) 460-6888.

Applications will be evaluated by Community Health Boards on a number of factors including: community involvement, financial need, educational goals and field of study in health care.

Treatment Access for Canadians Living with Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration May be Restricted

Nov 06 2015

Treatment Access for Canadians Living with Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration May be Restricted

Do you have age-related macular degeneration (AMD)? Then, this story matters to you. Do you care about fair and equitable access to safe medications? Then, this story matters to you too.

This story matters to Canadians living with AMD because regulators are getting ready to make recommendations that could restrict access to sight-saving drugs across the country. But, this is also a much bigger story that matters to all Canadians because this particular regulatory decision would set a new precedent regarding the use of off-label medications.

Because this is such an important decision, the Foundation Fighting Blindness has been working closely with the CNIB and the Canadian Council of the Blind to be sure that patients’ perspectives and experiences factor into the decision making process. Today, we are sharing this update because we want our communities to know that we have taken a firm stance together and have formally asked the regulators to suspend their decision making process until adequate safety data is available.

Inequitable Treatment across Canada

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 50. There are two forms of AMD – dry AMD and wet AMD. Dry AMD is the most common form of the disease and is characterized by the gradual loss of central vision. Sometimes, this dry form of AMD will progress into the wet form of AMD, which is when most vision loss occurs. Wet AMD can have a sudden onset and is characterized by abnormal blood vessel growth in the eye. Fortunately, there are effective sight-saving treatments for wet AMD called anti-VEGF drugs. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is normally produced in our bodies and is involved in the growth of blood vessels. However, the uncontrolled growth of blood vessels in the eye causes vision loss in wet AMD. Anti-VEGF therapies prevent (and even reverse) vision loss by removing excess VEGF from the eye. In Canada, there are two anti-VEGF drugs, Lucentis (ranibizumab) and Eylea (aflibercept), which have been approved to treat a variety of retinal diseases, including wet AMD. Avastin (bevacizumab) is an anti-VEGF drug that was designed to treat cancer, but is used “off-label” to treat retinal diseases.

Notably, Avastin is significantly cheaper than both Lucentis and Eylea. In addition, some studies have shown that is functions effectively as a sight-saving treatment. For these reasons, many doctors have opted to use Avastin as a first line of treatment, especially when their patients cannot afford the alternative.

Who pays for your medications?

In Canada, we consider health care to be right. Across the country, many of us are fortunate to receive excellent medical care, paid for by Canadian taxpayers. Accessing medically necessary drugs, however, is less straightforward. Some people have private insurance while others depend on publicly funded drug programs, such as the Ontario Public Drug Program, which is widely used by people over the age of 65.

If the public drug program in your province covers the drugs that you need, then everything usually works out well. Unfortunately, not all drugs are covered, and different provinces cover different drugs. This means that you have access to different drugs depending on where you live. In Alberta, for example, the newest anti-VEGF drug for treating wet-age related macular degeneration (Eylea) is not covered by the public drug program.

Comparing Different Treatment Options to “Optimize” the Approach

Regardless of where you live, your access to anti-VEGF drugs to treat retinal diseases, including wet AMD, is at risk. This is because the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH) is currently evaluating the monetary cost and clinical efficacy of different anti-VEGF drugs (including Lucentis, Eylea and Avastin). They are conducting this “Therapeutic Review” with the goal of making recommendations to “optimize” how these drugs are covered by provincial drug plans. The word “optimization” is used to signify that decision makers are looking for ways to save money without having a negative impact on health outcomes. Optimization implies that decisions are being made within constraints; for example, each province has a limited amount of money to spend on its public drug program. If you are interested in the fine details of the review, you can learn more on the CADTH website.

In brief, CADTH is conducting this review because they realize that the prevalence of people living with wet AMD and other retinal diseases will increase significantly as the population ages, and they are aware that Avastin is considerably less expensive than the other anti-VEGF drugs. (Avastin is an anti-VEGF drug that was developed to treat cancer, but is sometimes used “off-label” to treat wet AMD.) In addition, there are now some results from clinical studies that compare the effectiveness of the different available anti-VEGF drugs.

Patient Evidence Matters

At the beginning of this review process, the Foundation Fighting Blindness was invited by CADTH to submit patient evidence. To do this, we collaborated with the CNIB and the Canadian Council of the Blind to share the experiences of people who are taking anti-VEGF drugs to treat their eye diseases. To learn more, we developed a short survey and invited people to share their stories. Thank you to everyone who provided feedback!! Because of you, we were able to develop a patient evidence submission that contained a diversity of experiences with voices from across country.

In the patient submission, we emphasized that patients care about safe and equitable access to drugs. We told CADTH that some people were having difficult experiences in British Columbia, where access is more restrained. We told CADTH that although many people shared positive experiences with taking anti-VEGF drugs, others also shared more negative experiences. Because people had different experiences with different anti-VEGF drugs, we emphasized the importance of patient choice. You can read the full collaborative submission of patient evidence on the CADTH website here.

Recently, CADTH released a “Draft Science Report” that summarized the evidence that they considered (including our patient submission). As a patient group, we were invited to provide feedback on this Draft Report.

After reading the Draft Science Report, we were all surprised for two reasons. First, the report seemed to misinterpret the patient evidence that we submitted. Second, even though the report repeatedly acknowledged the lack of available safety data, it concluded that the drugs have equivalent safety risks. To us, this was a red flag because safety is so important to patients. In fact, sufficient safety data is a necessary criterion for embarking on a Therapeutic Review.

For these reasons, we have asked CADTH to suspend making any further recommendations until there is sufficient safety data available to justify the analysis. We sincerely hope that CADTH will consider our feedback because we believe that patient evidence is an essential component to effective decision making for the health of Canadians.

Your voice still matters. Please take the AMD survey or call to let us know about your experiences with anti-VEGF drugs. There will be additional opportunities for patient input before a decision is made. As a patient group, our job is to bring your voice to the table. We are honored to have this responsibility.

November is Diabetes & Diabetic Eye Diseases awareness month

Nov 03 2015

How is diabetes related with a person’s vision? What are the diabetic eye diseases that individuals should watch for? What kind of treatment is available for patients?


There are over 10 million Canadians living with diabetes and Type 2 is the most common form of the disease, accounting for 90% of cases. Researchers today are saying that the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes is increasing dramatically and cases could double by 2025. So how does diabetes affect a person’s eyes and their vision? The Canadian Association of Optometrists (CAO) states that:

“Diabetes can cause changes in nearsightedness, farsightedness and premature presbyopia (the inability to focus on close objects). It can result in cataracts, glaucoma, paralysis of the nerves that control the eye muscles or pupil, and decreased corneal sensitivity. Visual symptoms of diabetes include fluctuating or blurring of vision, occasional double vision, loss of visual field, and flashes and floaters within the eyes. Sometimes these early signs of diabetes are first detected in a thorough examination performed by a doctor of optometry. The most serious eye problem associated with diabetes is diabetic retinopathy.”


So what is Diabetic Retinopathy? The CAO explains that:

“Over time diabetes can cause changes in the retina. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when there is a weakening or swelling of the tiny blood vessels that feed the retina of your eye, resulting in blood leakage, the growth of new blood vessels and other changes. When retinopathy advances, the decreased circulation of the blood vessels deprives areas of the retina of oxygen. Blood vessels become blocked or closed, and parts of the retina die. New, abnormal, blood vessels grow to replace the old ones.  If diabetic retinopathy is left untreated, blindness can result.”

However, vision loss in patients diagnosed with diabetes can be controlled. Thus the importance in having routine eye exams performed by an optometrist and to have early detection for any signs of threatening vision changes. Physicians and optometrists alike also stress the importance of controlling your diabetes in order to minimize the risk of developing retinopathy.


Treatment for diabetic retinopathy involves the use of intraocular injections of anti-VEGF therapy (Lucentis, Avastin) or laser therapy (photocoagulation), where a bright beam of light is focused on the retina, causing a laser burn that seals off leaking blood vessels. Nevertheless, early detection of diabetic retinopathy is crucial, as treatment is much more likely to be successful at an early stage.


To summarize, it is important to control your diabetes symptoms, follow your physician’s instructions and to have frequent eye exams by your optometrist.

diabetic retinopathy image

Want to know if you are at risk of developing diabetes? Click on the link and take the CANRISK test!


Source: Types of Diabetes – Canadian Diabetes Association; Diabetes – Canadian Association of Optometrists; The Canadian Diabetes Risk Questionnaire – Canadian Diabetes Association

Tidbits of information about MEC – Seniors

Oct 23 2015

Are you interested about what the Mobile Eye Clinic (MEC) does in the community? Want to know how many clinics we have done since the start of the MEC? Curious about how many seniors have vision problems? Interested in having the MEC come to your community?


The CCB has created an initiative with local optometrists and the Lions Club District A4 to offer yearly OHIP covered comprehensive eye exams to seniors in their residences. The CCB and its partners along with the support of the community are funding the MEC program by covering the cost of the portable equipment and the administrative tasks associated with promoting and organizing the clinics.

lionlogo_2cDriver side

This program is a first of its kind in Ontario and has a research component to measure the impact of vision problems in seniors and the prevention of falls among them. Our optometrists use portable equipment to perform eye exams. Once the exam is done, we issue a letter with the exam’s results and give it to the seniors for their records/medical doctors. Also a prescription for glasses or a referral to a specialist for follow up is provided when required.


In reality, the Mobile Eye Clinic program offers a cost effective and efficient way of providing ocular support, prevention and treatment to communities and seniors that may otherwise go unvisited, undiagnosed and untreated. This initiative thus creates better vision for seniors, which in turn reduces isolation, falls, and injuries and therefore increases their overall quality of life.


Since May 2013, the MEC has seen a total of 633 seniors, with an average age of 80 years, and has visited a total of 28 seniors’ residences within the Ottawa Valley region. Of those patients, 39% of seniors have improved their vision with prescription glasses and 56% are living with an ocular disease or condition that is treatable.


The MEC is offering OHIP covered comprehensive eye exams to seniors 65 years and older (living in Ontario) whom have not had an eye exam within the past year. If you are interested in having the MEC visit your community/residence or want to have more information about the program, please contact Monica or Julie at 613-567-0311 or via email at or


Source: CCB MEC –seniors 2015-2016 ppt presentation; Seniors master list Eye clinics’ results ALL as of October 19, 2015-NEW DATA.