B.C. women cut off life-changing medication

Changes in health insurance coverage devastate Okanagan and Victoria women battling cystic fibrosis

As a result of swift and unexpected changes to their health insurance coverage, two Vernon residents have been left in a dire situation after learning their insurers have stopped covering the cost of Orkambi, a drug that has been proven to drastically improve the quality of life for people living with cystic fibrosis.

Currently, the Government of British Columbia does not cover the cost of Orkambi, despite it being approved by Health Canada and prescribed by doctors. This means that most people living with cystic fibrosis who could benefit from Orkambi are at the mercy of private insurance plans, and those without, are unable to afford it. Now, two women in the prime of their life face an uncertain future even though there is a medication available that can help them.

“Orkambi changed my life. I can do everyday things again: cook and prepare meals for my family, clean my own house, but most of all, my children have their mother back and my husband has the wife back that he was missing,” said Melissa Verleg, 34, a wife and mother of two from Vernon. “I am terrified of what will happen when I run out of Orkambi, as I only have enough to last me until Sept. 30. I don’t want to go back to being a spectator in life.”

Before Orkambi, Verleg struggled with such seemingly simple tasks and was even on life support in 2015 for six days when her lungs were no longer functioning. But since Orkambi her life has changed despite the rare genetic disease.

The same goes for Lilia Zaharieva.

“Because of Orkambi, for the first time in my life I can get through a day with energy, a smile, and fuller breath. It feels like someone has lifted a heavy load that I have been carrying all my life, and I wish this relief for everyone fighting Cystic Fibrosis in British Columbia,” said Zaharieva, 30, a student at the University of Victoria. “Since I have been on Orkambi, I have dared to plan for my future for the first time ever. It is not a cure, but now I have time to breathe. You can’t put a price on that.”

Cystic Fibrosis Canada strongly believes that it is in the best interest of the provincial government to ensure that their residents are healthy, allowing them to be active and productive members of the community.

Provincial health insurance covers a number of other costly drugs to the benefit of their residents and people with cystic fibrosis should be no exception.

CF Canada encourages the public to support Melissa (facebook.com/melissa.verleg) and Lilia (facebook.com/lzaharieva) by visiting their Facebook pages and sharing their story with B.C. Health Minister, Adrian Dix (facebook.com/adrian.dix1).