Lack of OHIP coverage for celiac test causing costly increases in treatment delays and health risks for Ontario patients
TORONTO, ON (MAY 3rd, 2018) — Adult patients in Canada with undiagnosed celiac disease can expect an average delay of 11 years before receiving an accurate diagnosis of their condition,1 while the typical delay for children is 1 year. 2 Celiac disease – an autoimmune disorder triggered by the consumption of foods containing gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley) — affects 1 in every 100 Canadians, but only 10 to 20% of patients with the disease have been diagnosed.3 It’s a situation the Canadian Celiac Association (CCA) is aiming to change, especially in Ontario, which is the only province that currently doesn’t cover the blood test necessary for detecting celiac disease under its provincial health insurance plan.
“The longer an undiagnosed patient is exposed to gluten the greater their risk for developing serious complications,” says CCA Executive Director Melissa Secord.
The CCA points out that a prolonged lack of treatment for a patient with celiac disease is associated with increases in nutritional deficiencies, bone fractures, cancers and the development of mental health problems, the latter of which has an incidence that is twice is high for people with celiac disease, compared to the general population.3
Patients that go undiagnosed also represent a financial burden on Ontario’s healthcare system through the potential loss of millions of taxpayer dollars spent on unnecessary hospital visits and tests such as x-rays, ultra-sound, or other blood work.3
As part of its outreach efforts during Celiac Disease Awareness Month, the CCA is calling on the provincial government to provide OHIP coverage for the IgA TTG serological test of celiac disease for the following scenarios:3
- Children older than 3 and adults experiencing symptoms suggestive of celiac disease [ CCA Infographic]
- First-degree relatives of people with celiac disease (i.e. parent, child, sibling)
- Individuals with an associated autoimmune disorder or condition associated with an increased risk of celiac disease, including type 1 diabetes, thyroid disease, liver disease and Down syndrome, amongst other conditions – Learn more.
The CCA’s Secord says the benefits of OHIP coverage of the test will lead to earlier diagnosis of celiac disease, which will translate into real cost savings for the provincial health care system.
“Because the only treatment for celiac disease is for individuals to follow a strict gluten-free diet, funds spent on unnecessary prescription drugs will be reduced, as will unnecessary diagnostic tests and visits to doctors and hospitals,” says Secord.
Additionally, early detection provides significant benefits for patients, like improved quality of life.
“I’m not sure if I’m feeling more frustrated or relieved,” says Tammy Martin, a celiac patient from Woodstock, Ontario. “I’ve likely been celiac for about 20 years and the majority of my health issues are probably related to the disease. Because I’m now following a gluten-free diet, I’ll be able to drive again. Ride a bike. Ditch my walker! For all of that, I’m so thrilled, excited! But I’m also sad. I’ve missed out on so much that could have been avoided through earlier diagnosis and diet change.”
Click here for more information on celiac disease and to sign the CCA’s Blood Testing petition.
About the Canadian Celiac Association
The Canadian Celiac Association / L’Association canadienne de la maladie coeliaque is a volunteer-based, federally registered charitable organization with its national office in Mississauga, Ontario. Today the association serves people with celiac disease and gluten intolerance through affiliated chapters and satellite groups across Canada.
- Cranney A, et al. The Canadian Celiac Health Survey. Dig Dis Sci. 2007;52(4):1087-95. Epub 2007 Feb 22.
- Rashid M, et al. Celiac disease: evaluation of the diagnosis and dietary compliance in Canadian children. Pediatrics. 2005;116(6):e754-9.
- Canadian Celiac Association. The Need for Serological Screening for Celiac Disease in Ontario. https://www.celiac.ca/. Accessed April 28, 2018.
T: 416.366.2264 x 126