Thursday, March 29, 2012

Canada - New Hepatitis C drug approval won't help Gust, but Merck will

Hep C drug approval won't help Gust, but Merck will
By Sarah Simpson, Citizen March 28, 2012

The province announced Monday it is expanding Pharmacare coverage for patients suffering from hepatitis C to include the drug boceprevir (Victrelis).

The announcement comes as little relief to Duncan's Shirley Gust, however. The Citizen brought you her story last month. She suffers from chronic hepatitis C - genotype 1 and said though the expensive drug is tailor-made for people with her condition, it still isn't being covered for folks in her particular situation.

"Not for people like me," she said. "It will be people that have got [liver] fibrosis stages two and four and that's it.

"If you are a non-responder and you have compensated cirrhosis or cirrhosis of any kind then they will not fund you."

Gust has compensated liver cirrhosis.

Last month Gust said she feared she would die before the promising drug could possibly cure her.
"My outcome isn't looking good. The quality of life is going down. The outlook is, okay, am I going to be here next year? I'm only 55," she said at the time. "The cirrhosis is getting worse for me. The blood's not pumping through the liver and I'm swelling and the spleen is enlarged. It's getting crucial."
Just when hope seemed to be fading for her, Gust learned of a compassion program run by Victrelis maker Merck.

The problem is, the program was being shut down on March 7. It didn't stop her from applying.
"I slipped in just before March 7," she said. "I haven't got it in my hand yet but as far as I know, I have been approved. I haven't been getting excited quite yet because I haven't seen it in my hand just yet."

When she does receive the drug, which Pharmacare says costs about $1,050 per week, Gust won't be given the standard treatment.

She'll get a 12-week dose of the specialized cocktail of Victrelis and other drugs right off the bat, as opposed to easing into the medicine over a number of weeks and staying on it longer.
"They've never done that before so I'll be kind of like the guinea pig," she said. "They're going to let me have it for 12 weeks and then see what happens."

When added to other medications as part of a treatment program, some Victrelis studies are showing a success rate of 70 to 80 per cent.

"The results are showing that the treatment regime would enable those who have previously failed treatment to now be cured," Renowned epidemiologist Dr. John Farley said last month.
That's the result that Gust, a 55-year-old grandmother of three is desperately hoping for.

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