February 25, 2018 5:04 pm

B.C. girl first to receive medical support for expensive arthritis drug treatment

Aldergrove's Jaylene Prime has been approved for the drug canakinumab, which helps treat systemic Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis.

Supplied/Cassie and Friends
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A Grade 7 girl from Aldergrove has been the first child in B.C. to be granted coverage for a drug that costs about $228,000 every year.

Jaylene Prime was diagnosed with systemic Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (sJIA) in January 2015 and after attempting several types of treatment, she will be the first person in the province to be prescribed canakinumab.

In a statement, the Prime family said, “The severe symptoms of this disease are gut-wrenching to see happen on Jaylene’s young body.”

READ MORE: ‘A devastating feeling’: Sooke boy denied coverage for rare drug for 3rd time

BC PharmaCare will cover the cost of the drug at $19,000 every month after tociluzimab and methotrexate failed to help the inflammation of her skin and even affected her behaviour.

Prime was prescribed anakinra in June 2016, but described the daily injections as “fire burning under her skin.”

WATCH: Ailing UBC student now approved for expensive drug


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Cassie and Friends — an organization that offers support for children with juvenile arthritis — advocated for Prime and said they had to work for a while for help from the province.

“In Jaylene’s case, she had been denied before, but the pediatric rheumatologist and PharmaCare continued to work together to assess her need for this particular treatment,” the organization’s executive director, Jennifer Wilson, said.

Canakinumab is approved by Health Canada for use, but is only approved by PharmaCare on a case-by-case basis.

Landen Alexa, a boy from Vancouver Island, also suffers from the rare illness but has been denied coverage for the drug three times.

His mother estimates less than 10 children in B.C. suffer from sJIA.

WATCH: What is juvenile arthritis?

The Ministry of Health says each case is reviewed by independent specialists who go over the details of each case, including all available treatment options, to determine the best course of action for each patient.

— With files from Simon Little

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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