Donepezil (Aricept), is now being reimbursed to eligible Ontario patients by the Ontario Drug Benefit Program. Donepezil received Health Protection Branch (HPB) approval in August 1997. Until now, however, donepezil has not been reimbursed by any provincial health plan, including Ontario's public drug program which covers senior citizens and those on social assistance. People wanting donepezil have had to pay for it themselves or have it reimbursed by private insurance.
Effective June 1, 1999, eligible ODBP beneficiaries will have the cost of donepezil reimbursed. There are two categories of coverage. Those who have already been on donepezil treatment for more than 60 days, have a confirmed diagnosis of mild to moderate AD and meet the ODBP program criteria will be eligible for reimbursement of donepezil by the ODBP.
Others with a confirmed diagnosis and who meet the ODBP and program criteria but who have never taken donepezil (or have taken it for less than 60 days) will be enrolled in a 12-week trial prescription program, with the medication provided free of charge by Pfizer. The trial prescription program is administered by an independent pharmacy and healthcare company, Caremark Ltd., based in Mississauga, Ontario.
The patient and caregiver also will receive a Pfizer-sponsored program of educational material about AD, including a video, called TriAD and a patient diary. The physician will continue to be supplied with diagnostic and other support tools to help him or her evaluate and track the patient's progress.
At the end of the 12-week trial prescription program, those patients who have benefited from the treatment will be eligible for continuing treatment reimbursed by the Ontario government. All patients receiving reimbursement will be reviewed annually to ensure they are still benefiting from the treatment and thus remain eligible for reimbursement.
The major instrument used to measure eligibility and effectiveness will be the Mini Mental Status Exam (MMSE). A score of 30 represents full cognitive ability; persons with impairment caused by AD score lower and their scores diminish over time as the disease takes its toll on cognitive function.
To be eligible for coverage, persons with mild to moderate AD will have to have and maintain an MMSE score between 10 and 26. A score that drops below 10 is indicative of advanced cognitive impairment of the later stages of AD, for which treatment with donepezil would not be appropriate.
Patients, caregivers or healthcare professionals seeking more information about reimbursement for donepezil can call toll-free to 1-800-510-6141.