July 8, 2014 5:39 pm

Saint John man wants drug covered by provincial plan

Doug Greene needs a drug that costs $40,000/year and not covered by the provincial drug plan.

Steve Fiander/Global News

SAINT JOHN – A Saint John man suffering from a rare lung disease says he’s running out of time.

Doug Greene has been trying to get the province to pay for a drug he believes could prolong his life. Even though New Brunswick has launched its new catastrophic drug plan, the province still has not agreed to pay for the $40,000/year drug Greene says he can’t afford to live without.

“The drug Esbriet does not cure IPF but it slows it down drastically,” he said.

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Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis is a rare lung disease that leaves Greene short of breath and starving for oxygen. There is no known cure for the disease and Greene says his only other treatment option is a lung transplant.

“I have my name in for a lung transplant,” he said. “But I’m 72, so chances are slim.”

New research released in May in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that Esbriets, which has been approved by Health Canada, is capable of reducing the death rate in IPF patients by 48 per cent.

“It would probably give me another three years,” he said.

Greene’s problem is the province has yet to agree to add Esbriet to its list of approved drugs making it eligible for approval under the new catastrophic drug plan.

Right now the only province in Canada willing to pay for the costly drug is Quebec.

“If I went into Quebec and said I want Esbriet they’d say go back to New Brunswick, which you can’t blame them. It’s for people that live there.”

A spokesperson from the Department of Health says the province is reviewing the newest research regarding Esbriet’s effectiveness and a decision regarding the drug’s benefit status for the New Brunswick drug plan will be made as soon as possible.

Greene claims he’s heard that before, and asks what the point is of having a catastrophic drug plan if patients still can’t access the drugs they need.

“As soon as possible is too late for me. I have to know within the next month. Because if I start to go down hill further then the drug will do you no good,” he said. “It’s do or die right now for me.”


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