MDC’s Response to the CADTH and INESSS Recommendations for Onasemnogene abeparvovec: A Call for Newborn Screening

At the end of 2020, Health Canada approved Onasemnogene abeparvovec (Zolgensma®) for the treatment of pediatric patients with 5q Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) with biallelic mutations in the SMN1 gene and three or fewer copies of SMN2 gene, or infantile-onset SMA, bringing renewed hope to Canadian families affected by SMA. Onasemnogene abeparvovec is the second treatment approved by Health Canada for SMA and the first gene therapy for SMA. The broad indication as part of Health Canada approval was followed up with recommendations from the Institut national d’excellence en santé et en services sociaux (INESSS) and most recently, the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH) Canadian Drug Expert Committees. The recommendations were formulated following a comprehensive evidence-based review of the medication's efficacy or effectiveness and safety and an assessment of its cost-effectiveness. The CADTH recommendations note that Onasemnogene abeparvovec should be for patients who are: symptomatic or pre-symptomatic with one to three copies of the survival motor neuron gene; 6 months of age or younger; not currently requiring permanent feeding or ventilatory support (either invasive or non-invasive).

Based on the patient input we put forward to CADTH and INESSS, we know SMA contributes to a loss of independence, increased load on families, difficulty breathing, swallowing and loss of mobility and can have a negative impact on mental and emotional well-being. Since Health Canada’s approval of treatments for SMA, families have been anxiously approaching age limitations and tirelessly advocating for access. While we commend INESSS and CADTH for their thorough class reviews, we are disappointed to see Onasemnogene abeparvovec is not recommended for those over the age of 6 months and a case-by-case review mechanism has not been suggested by CADTH. This emphasizes the need for a comprehensive Rare Disease Strategy and a process/mechanism to address the evidence gap for older infants and children. We thank the clinical experts for contributing to the reviews and we are in full agreement with the clinical experts that “earliest possible initiation of therapy” is important when it comes to SMA because it is associated with irreversible loss of motor neurons and motor nerves. This means in order to best benefit from the treatments currently approved and available in Canada, a diagnosis should be available as early as possible. Thankfully, this is the case in Ontario – newborn screening for SMA is part of the infant screening panel at birth since 2020. However, for anyone outside of Ontario, a diagnosis prior to 6 months of age is not always achieved. The recent INESSS and CADTH recommendations highlight the critical need for newborn screening, especially in the presence of approved treatments, and strongly provides support for MDC’s current initiative to implement nation-wide newborn screening for SMA.

We acknowledge that the recent approval of another treatment for SMA and related drug review recommendations has taken us another significant step towards early diagnosis and treatment choice. MDC is committed to continually work with individuals affected by SMA and their families on an individualized basis to provide holistic supports, resources for making evidence-informed choices and supporting individual advocacy activities.

We are looking forward to continued research and developments that can demonstrate the meaningful benefits of early diagnosis and early access to treatments for health outcomes and health-related quality of life for Canadians affected by SMA.

Sincerely,
Stacey Lintern
Chief Executive Officer
Muscular Dystrophy Canada



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Muscular Dystrophy Canada Receives National Accreditation

March 3, 2021 – Muscular Dystrophy Canada (MDC) has been awarded accreditation in Imagine Canada’s Standards Program for excellence in non-profit accountability, transparency, governance and fundraising. Created “by the sector for the sector”, the Imagine Canada Standards Program is the only national accreditation program that is designed for all Canadian charities and non-profits.

To earn the accreditation, organizations must demonstrate excellence in five fundamental areas: board governance; financial accountability and transparency; fundraising; staff management; and volunteer involvement. Accreditation is a sought-after hallmark of excellence within the sector for funders, donors, sponsors and supporters alike.

Organizations receiving the accreditation are awarded a Trustmark to signal credibility and build confidence with donors.

“The Imagine Canada Standards Program accreditation demonstrates MDC’s commitment to our donors, supporters, all Canadians who are impacted by neuromuscular disorders, and to the work that we do,” said Donna Nixon, Chair, Board of Directors, Muscular Dystrophy Canada.

Nixon added, “We’ve always held to these standards, but by completing this comprehensive application and peer-review process we’ve been able to refine and evolve some of our practices to further strengthen the organization. My fellow directors, the leadership team and staff at MDC were all instrumental in making this accreditation possible. I thank them for their hard work and commitment through the application process, and for ensuring that MDC is upholding Imagine Canada’s standards for excellence and leadership in the non-profit sector each and every day.”

“Earning the accreditation, especially in these changing times, shows remarkable resilience, and a strong commitment to innovation and excellence. We commend the latest well-deserving recipients of the Trustmark for achieving Imagine Canada’s Standards accreditation, and demonstrating outstanding adherence to sound governance,” said Bruce MacDonald, President and CEO of Imagine Canada.

To learn more, visit imaginecanada.ca.

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ABOUT MUSCULAR DYSTROPHY CANADA (MDC)

Muscular Dystrophy Canada’s mission is to enhance the lives of those impacted with neuromuscular disorders by continually working to provide ongoing support and resources while relentlessly searching for a cure through well-funded research. Learn more about MDC online, or call our toll-free number at 1-800-567-2873.

ABOUT THE IMAGINE CANDA STANDARDS PROGRAM

The goals of Imagine Canada’s Standards Program are to increase organizational excellence and transparency of charities and nonprofits, to build resilience and to strengthen public confidence in individual organizations and the sector as a whole. To earn the accreditation, organizations must meet 73 standards in financial management and accountability, fundraising practise, board governance, staff management, and volunteer management.

MEDIA CONTACT INFORMATION:

Heather Rice,
Muscular Dystrophy Canada
Heather.Rice@muscle.ca
902-440-3714

Muscular Dystrophy Canada calls on provincial governments to prioritize persons affected by neuromuscular disorders for COVID-19 vaccine

February 23, 2021 – Many people living with neuromuscular disorders (NMD) are at greater risk of developing serious symptoms and complications as a result of COVID-19 due to their often pre-existing cardiac and respiratory issues and chronic comorbidities. As the voice of the NMD community in Canada, Muscular Dystrophy Canada (MDC) is calling on governments to prioritize people living with hereditary and acquired neuromuscular disorders in their vaccination roll-out.

Specifically, MDC is asking that the following groups of people with neuromuscular disorders be prioritized: adults requiring multiple caregivers or complex ongoing support in the home, community or institutional setting; the caregivers or home care workers who provide ongoing support to children and adults with neuromuscular disorders; adults with severe or unstable respiratory issues; adults with reliance on home ventilation; adults with clinically relevant impairment of heart function; and, adults receiving immunosuppressants.

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Your Impact on the Neuromuscular Community in 2020 was Profound

Welcome to 2021. I think it’s safe to say we’re all looking forward to the fresh start and renewed possibilities that this year will bring.

I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your support of the Canadian neuromuscular community in 2020. It was a challenging year for all, but your support directly impacted thousands of families and individuals across the country. Your donations funded access to treatments, programs and services and ground-breaking research.

For instance, you’re helping ensure early screening and treatment is available regardless of where you live. Thanks to the support of donors like you, babies and families across the country are a step closer to early diagnosis and treatment. We’re very excited to embark on a nation-wide newborn screening collaboration in 2021 to fuel the goal of making newborn screening for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) a reality.

Also because of you, individuals affected by neuromuscular disorders stayed connected with their community, and were provided knowledgeable advice from experts in the health and medical fields during the pandemic. Your support allowed us to offer network meetings and educational webinars, virtually, so individuals could participate from the safety of their homes.

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Donors, like you, also played a vital role in keeping families together over the holidays. A research project you funded, A Virtual Transition Intervention for Children and Adults Transitioning To Home Ventilation, brought complex ventilator support into homes virtually. Individuals requiring ventilators to help with breathing make frequent visits to hospitals for specialized care and to ensure their equipment is working properly. This year, given these individuals are at a high risk for respiratory illness it was more important than ever that they stay at home with close family and friends. Thanks to your support of this research project, a virtual support program was piloted to bring medical experts into the homes of these individuals, reducing the need for hospital visits and possible exposure to COVID.

When we work together, we can truly accomplish incredible things.

That’s why I’m reaching out to you today. Will you renew your commitment to the neuromuscular community in 2021 by making a donation to MDC? Your gift will mean more investments in research, life-changing partnerships and continued support for individuals and families regardless of where they live.

The beginning of a new year is also the perfect time to become a monthly donor. Monthly donations support long-term projects and initiatives. They keep vital programs and services going all year long and ensure that critical advocacy efforts can continue to make positive changes for our community. The pandemic has underscored the vital importance of each and every donor and a sustainable monthly gift provides certainty for our ongoing work.

I know with your renewed support, we can continue to make meaningful changes, invest in research and form valuable partnerships that support Canadians affected by neuromuscular disorders.

Partnerships, such as the one with Thames Valley Neuromuscular Clinic where a pilot program is helping pediatric patients and their families make informed decisions throughout the care journey to alleviate some of the fear and stress these parents often experience. Your donations are also behind our Systems Navigation program, which helps Canadians with all areas of their non-medical needs. This past year, your gifts ensured MDC was able to continue funding critical equipment for individuals impacted by a neuromuscular disorder despite a drastic reduction in fundraising revenue.

MDC is the only national charity that supports Canadians with a wide range of neuromuscular disorders across the country, but we can’t do it without you. The impact you are having on the neuromuscular community is profound.

I hope we can count on you to renew your support today by making a donation.

Again, thank you for your support in 2020 and I look forward to working with you to continue changing lives in 2021. Because, like us, I know you too are ignited by passion and fuelled by hope.

Warm regards,
Stacey Lintern
CEO, Muscular Dystrophy Canada

P.S. Our new year appeal is one of our most important. Donations from supportive Canadians like you are put to work right away to support families and to fund research. While hope is renewed with the recent COVID vaccine, charities like ours continue to be impacted by its effect on our traditional fundraising activities and the economic realities for so many. We hope you can continue your support for 2021.

MDC Statement

December 4, 2020

Statement from Stacey Lintern, Chief Executive Officer, Muscular Dystrophy Canada on a Collaboration with Novartis for National Newborn Screening in Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA)

“The remarkable story of Aiden Deschamps shared this week by Newborn Screening Ontario and the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario demonstrates the profound impact newborn screening has on the quality of lives of children born with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). We know that for these children, promising outcomes are possible with a timely diagnosis and early access to care and treatment. We applaud Ontario for recognizing this and being the first province to add SMA to their screening panel.”

“As an umbrella national organization that represents individuals impacted by neuromuscular disorders including SMA, we believe all Canadian babies should have an opportunity to realise their developmental potential. Building upon Ontario’s leadership, we are excited to embark on a collaboration for nation-wide newborn screening collaboration with Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc., who have committed up to $2 million. This investment coupled with our combined expertise will fuel the goal of making newborn screening for SMA a reality from coast-to-coast.”

“This landmark effort will bring together those with lived experience, medical experts, patient advocacy organizations, governments and other key stakeholders. We are incredibly proud of this important initiative and look forward to working with the SMA community across the country.”

For more information, contact:

Stacey Lintern
CEO, Muscular Dystrophy Canada
Phone: 647-284-8706
Email: Stacey.Lintern@muscle.ca

Don’t Forget Me This Holiday Season

The world is a scary and lonely place right now. Due to the global pandemic, we are isolated from our friends and family. Our routines have completely changed. We aren’t able to do the things we love and visit our favourite places. This is what life is like, every day, for many individuals affected by neuromuscular disorders.

My name is Warren. I’m a husband, a father, an advocate and so much more. I also have Becker’s Muscular Dystrophy. I wanted to share my story with dedicated donors, like you, because you’re having a profound impact on the lives of so many people affected by neuromuscular disorders – in ways that you may not even realise. And for that you deserve much gratitude and thanks.

I was eighteen years old before I was diagnosed. As frustrating, demoralizing and scary as it was to grow up unable to do things and not know why, it made me incredibly thankful when I finally did receive a diagnosis.

I remember being compared to my younger siblings. I was often called lazy. My experience of being treated less than fairly made me the advocate I am today. I’m also dedicated to raising funds for Muscular Dystrophy Canada (MDC), because I know from personal experience that the resources, connections and programs they offer are life-changing. I know these services are only possible, because of gifts from special donors like you.

DONATE NOW

MDC is at great risk of not being able to continue offering these incredible services. Their revenue has drastically decreased during the pandemic, and demand for programs and support services has risen. You have been instrumental in providing these services in the past. Will you consider donating today to ensure individuals, like me, can continue to access the support we need during these challenging times?

The holidays are almost here and people are getting excited and finding new ways to celebrate with their loved ones. For me, the holiday season means snow, increased expenses and further isolation and loneliness.

I hope this holiday season you will remember the challenges many of us are facing.
Because you have the power to give the gift of hope and connection by supporting MDC.

Sometimes I get very angry. I’m angry that my loving wife and wonderful children have
to watch their dad struggle. I’m angry that I can’t be there for them in the ways I want to be. I’m angry that we, the disabled community, so often seem to be forgotten. I can’t deal with the anger and isolation alone. Thankfully I have a friend like you in my corner.

DONATE NOW

Because of you, I am able to participate in MDC’s virtual network meetings. These meetings give me a chance to connect with others who understand my situation and frustrations. It also gives me the chance to help others and be a support system for new friends across the country.

Did you know you were providing a safe, accessible way for individuals affected by neuromuscular disorders across the country to connect with each other, form friendships and reduce isolation? This type of gift is invaluable. But without your continued generous support, these opportunities for connection are at risk.

You have the power to bring people together, to reduce isolation and loneliness and to brighten someone’s day in a meaningful way. Will you make a donation today to spread a little holiday joy?

The financial support, equipment and emotional connections you provide are important every day, but even more so during the holidays. I hope you will make a donation today to make sure no one feels forgotten this holiday season.

Warm regards,
Warren Jones

P.S. Give the gift of joy and connection today. Then if you know someone impacted by a neuromuscular disorder, tell them how you are supporting MDC and encourage them to attend a virtual network meeting. I’d love to make a new friend.

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WMS Challenge

Many neuromuscular specialists and members of multidisciplinary neuromuscular teams in Canada are part of the World Muscle Society (WMS). WMS provides a multidisciplinary scientific forum to advance and disseminate knowledge in the neuromuscular field for the benefit of patients; stimulates, encourages and helps to develop programs for professionals working in the neuromuscular field; and promotes the achievement of standards in clinical practice.

This year the WMS2020 meeting was scheduled to take place in beautiful Nova Scotia, Canada and was meant to mark WMS’ 25th anniversary year. But unfortunately due to COVID-19, the meeting was re-envisioned as a first ever virtual congress.

Because people living with neuromuscular conditions have been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, WMS has asked all WMS2020 Congress attendees to get involved by taking on their very own #WMS25CHALLENGE to raise money and awareness for relevant charities across the world.

Muscular Dystrophy Canada has been selected as the neuromuscular organization of choice for Canada. This call for support is timely: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, MDC has seen an increased demand for mental and emotional well-being supports, evidence-based information, essential equipment and advocacy for equity-focused policies. But while there has been an increased demand for our programs and services, the pandemic has significantly affected our available funding. Since the pandemic, MDC has experienced a 60% decrease in revenue. All of our in-person fundraising events have been cancelled and this has been challenging as our organization relies on our supporters and donors to fuel our mission. There has been a 40% cut to funding for the equipment program and a 75% cut to the budget for the Annual Research Grant Competition. In the past year we funded over $1.6 million dollars of research grants and leveraged additional funding for a total of approximately $3.5 million towards team grants and supporting infrastructure. We funded over 1 million dollars in funding essential equipment and technology supports for people living with neuromuscular disorders, but today we have over 100 individuals on the wait list to receive such life-changing equipment. Let’s not slow down the incredible progress that has been made.

Let’s keep the momentum going – if you are attending #WMS2020 meeting, participate in the #WMS25CHALLENGE and help raise money for MDC. [https://muscle.akaraisin.com/ui/directgiving/donations/start (Enter Code: WMS25)] Share your post using the hashtags #WMS25CHALLENGE and #WMS2020 to make sure it features on MDC and the Congress Twitter walls.

In advance, thank you for your support and for positively impacting the lives of Canadians affected by neuromuscular disorders!

Double Your Impact Today

Have you ever heard of Giant Axonal Neuropathy (GAN)? Probably not. It’s a really rare neuromuscular disorder.

Hi! My name is Jordan and I’m 9-years old. When I was three and a half, a doctor told me I had GAN. My family had no idea what this meant. But the doctor told us that my nervous system is slower and doesn’t work as well as other kids’.

When I was little, I had trouble standing up and walking. At first, my parents thought I was just clumsy. I don’t remember this very well, but my mom says getting my diagnosis was like a never-ending road.

It took two whole years to figure out what was happening to me. When they finally found out about my disorder, my mom says it felt like she was kicked in the gut.

If you give a gift today, scientists can find out more about rare disorders to help people, like me. And today, your gift will go two times as far because a generous donor has agreed to match all gifts to my letter up to $25,000.

Did you know there are over 160 different kinds of neuromuscular disorders? That’s a lot. I have one of the really rare types. And there are lots of other people with different rare types too! Thankfully MDC is here to help people no matter what type they have!

Will you give a gift today so families like mine can get the help they need?

When I was 4-years-old, I needed a walker. Then when I turned five, I got my first wheelchair. Later, MDC helped me get a cool new power wheelchair. I’m really lucky, because I have donors, like you, to help me. But there are a lot of other people with rare disorders who need help, too.

It’s great that we know what my disorder is so that I can get the help I need. Many kids aren’t able to get diagnosed.

My disorder never stops me from having fun! I always wanted to learn how to dance so my mom signed me up for dance classes. She didn’t want to wait because one day I might be in my wheelchair full-time and dance classes would be very different.

Sometimes, my family needs help. If I need a new wheelchair or something else to help me, my mom just picks up the phone and calls MDC. Sometimes she talks to them for a long time, but she always seems happy.

Donors like you help make moms and dads feel happy, and less angry and sad. Right now, because of a special donor, your gift will help even more people! Will you give a gift today?

There are so many different types of disorders. But everyone should be able to get the help they need! MDC supports research, advocacy and helps families like mine get support and equipment—like my walker and wheelchair! When you donate to MDC, it really helps. We are so lucky to have you.

By giving a gift, you give me and families all over Canada HOPE for the future. I’m counting on you to give a generous gift today so you can help others live their best life.

Thank you for helping kids like me keep on dancing!

Jordan Gagnon

P.S. A generous donor has agreed to match the gifts from my letter! How awesome is that? They will match up to $25,000. Which means we can help so many other families. MDC supports research for treatments and earlier diagnosis and supports families impacted by ALL neuromuscular disorders, even the really rare ones—like mine!

The Tenaquip Foundation Walk for Muscular Dystrophy raising funds, hope and unity in new ways

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 29, 2020

Toronto, Ontario – Muscular Dystrophy Canada (MDC) is bringing the neuromuscular community together like it never has before. On September 12, 2020 at 2 p.m. EST, thousands of Canadians across the country will come together, virtually, to participate in The Tenaquip Foundation Walk for Muscular Dystrophy (Walk4MD).

“This is the first time MDC has hosted a virtual fundraising event, and we are excited to have The Tenaquip Foundation as our title sponsor. They are amazing supporters of the neuromuscular community in Canada, and this year they have extended their commitment by joining the Walk4MD family,” says Stacey Lintern, Interim CEO, Muscular Dystrophy Canada.

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