October 24, 2013 7:18 pm
Updated: October 24, 2013 7:34 pm

Montreal woman wants access to life-saving drug approved by Health Canada, but not available in Quebec


MONTREAL – Olivia Collette tries to visit her cousin, Samantha Poulin, at the Jewish General Hospital whenever she can.

“I love her,” says Collette, “and we’re trying to save her life, because she has an 8-year-old child; and that’s too young to lose your mother.”

Poulin suffers from an aggressive form of lymphoma that is not responding well to treatment, but there is one drug called Brentuximab Vedotin (Adcetris) that her doctor thinks will help.

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“I think it’s reasonable to expect that she would have a much better chance with this drug than with an alternative treatment,” says Dr. Nathalie Johnson, a Hematologist at the Jewish General. The drug has been approved by Health Canada, but not yet by INESSS (Institut national d’excellence en santé et en services sociaux), the Quebec organization which is responsible for determining which drugs are available in Quebec and covered by Medicare. INESSS says there isn’t enough data on the drug yet.

“We also need to think more globally in terms of society to question ourselves, is it a responsible investment in terms of our society,” says Dr. Stephane P. Ahern of INESSS.

That argument doesn’t sit well with Poulin.

“What’s better, fixing a road or fixing a person?” she asks. “I can’t believe they would do that to people, you know? Is the population too big that they have to kill off some people like that?”

Her cousin thinks the cost analysis in question is faulty.

“I just have to wonder what it costs to keep her in therapy that has not been working since April” says Collette. “I’m sure it’s a much bigger burden on the system than just giving her the treatment she needs from the get go.”

At the moment, one of the only options for Poulin is to take part in a clinical trial in Boston – the treatment would be free, but the routine care around it for just two doses could reach up to $20,000 – that’s something Poulin cannot afford on her own.

So her cousin has set up an Indiegogo fundraising website to help raise the money needed to get Poulin to Boston,to help pay for her accommodations, the transportation, and the food she’ll need to stay there.

In the meantime, her doctor is hoping we can find new ways to speed up our own system here in Quebec. Ideally, she’d like to be able to “work with INESSS, work with the government to try to find better solution to really help the patients.”

For more information or to donate to the fundraising campaign, click here.

© 2013 Shaw Media

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