‘This is my last option:’ Ottawa woman with cystic fibrosis says insurance won’t cover life-saving medication

OTTAWA — An Ottawa 23-year old with cystic fibrosis says she’s in need of a life-saving medication which costs $300,000 dollars a year, but says her private insurance won’t pay for it.

“I have been basically told that this is my last option,” Sara Aldrich says.

Aldrich was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at an early age, and has lived a mostly active life.

“Both my brother and I played competitive soccer, I played for eleven years,” she says, “we were always out and doing something – some kind of sport.”

But she says over the past three years, that changed. Her condition, which affects the lungs, got worse – making everyday tasks difficult.

“When I was healthy, I never even thought about how easy it was to do, but now , walking up the stairs I usually cough, I usually end up throwing up. So my life has kind of completely altered since my lung function has gone down.”

Aldrich says a new treatment, called Trifakta would change her life.

“My lung function is the lowest it’s ever been, and I can’t see it ever going back up unless I get Trikafta.”

The drug is approved for use in Canada, but not covered by her private insurance.

“The price would need to be reduced by at least 80 to 90 percent for them to be able to pay for it; and, they said that the price of the drug is currently outweighing the benefits of it.”

Kim Steele, director of government and community relations with Cystic Fibrosis Canada, says Aldrich is not the only one to be denied,

“We’re in this weirdly unique situation, in which Canada’s public-payers, so our governments, have moved to cover this drug more quickly, than most private insurers, and that just doesn’t happen in Canada,” she says.

“Not everybody can get public insurance; if you have private insurance, depending on where you live in Canada, your government wants to bill them first; and, if your private insurer is not covering it, it’s a whole bunch of work to try and get it through the public system.”

Steele adds that Trikafta treats 98 per cent of the cystic fibrosis community,

“It’s the single biggest transformation in the history of cystic fibrosis. It’s a therapy that is not only slowing the progression of the disease in people, but it is helping people get off the lung transplant list and get on with life.”

Aldrich is applying for an OHIP program aimed at young people to hopefully pay for the drug. But her goal is to raise awareness about her situation and help others.

“Continuing to fight for everyone else that has CF, and needs this drug – I don’t want to stop here.”

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