B.C. to fund drug for babies living with spinal muscular atrophy

Click to play video: 'NDP government to cover the drug Spinraza for use on BC patients' NDP government to cover the drug Spinraza for use on BC patients
WATCH: Today's Global News Hour at 6 Health Matters is brought to you by Pharmasave. Babies who suffer from a rare, degenerative disease will now have access to an expensive, life-changing drug. Aaron McArthur reports – Oct 2, 2018

B.C. has announced it will be funding a life-changing treatment for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA).

Babies who are seven months old, or younger, who are living with SMA will soon have access to a drug called Spinraza.

People with SMA lack a protein that leads to constant deterioration of their muscles. But there is a cure. Spinraza not only stops the deterioration but if caught early enough can reverse the effects of the disease.

The medication comes at an enormous cost as each dose of Spinraza costs $100,000. The first year of treatment can cost more than $700,000, and $350,000 every year after that.

READ MORE: Drug could save hundreds of kids from profound disability – if they can pay for it

The FDA in the U.S. approved the drug two years ago, and it was approved for use in Canada last year, but patients in B.C. have not been able to get access to it.

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On Tuesday, the B.C. government announced it will now fund the drug (at a significant discount) but only for 60 per cent of patients. There are three types of SMA, and only Type 1 patients will see government funding for Spinraza.

WATCH: B.C. government announces funding for rare disease medicine

Click to play video: 'B.C. government announces funding for rare disease medicine' B.C. government announces funding for rare disease medicine
B.C. government announces funding for rare disease medicine – Oct 2, 2018

The remaining patients – Type 2 and 3 will receive the medication through the pharmaceutical company BioGen until there is more evidence to support giving it to all patients.

READ MORE: Spinal Muscular Atrophy: Son’s illness inspires Calgary family to help find a cure

Parents of kids suffering from SMA are relieved the B.C. government has made strides to provide this miracle drug to all patients, but want things to move much faster through the government. Some people are suggesting all babies should be screened for SMA.

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The disease is usually diagnosed in kids about two years old, but if Spinraza can be administered before there are symptoms, the patients may never see any symptoms at all.

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