New Brunswick, Canada residents currently in the fight against a rare and mysterious disease, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), have received new hope after it was announced that the provincial government has added Esbriet (pirfenidone) to the list of treatments publicly funded under the New Brunswick Prescription Drug Program (NBPDP). This is a significant development in the country’s movement against this life-threatening and debilitating disease, as Esbriet is currently the only approved drug for IPF available in Canada. The government’s decision to fund Esbriet comes after 2 long years of petitioning and rallying for public access, and complies with an agreement with the Pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance (PCPA). As of October 3, 2014, New Brunswick is officially the 2nd Canadian province after Ontario to fund this treatment for IPF patients that meet certain criteria.
The advocacy for access to Esbriet in New Brunswick began in 2012 when the drug was approved by Health Canada, but was recommended by the Common Drug Review (CDR) to be available for public funding only in select Canadian provinces. This left many IPF patients without access to a reliable treatment option.
“The Canadian IPF community commends those provinces that agree to publicly fund Esbriet – a list that is growing and now includes New Brunswick and Ontario … We hope that the rest of the provinces will join in and provide access to the one and only approved treatment for all Canadians living with IPF, so we can all breathe a sigh of relief.” – Robert Davidson, President and founder of the Canadian Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation (CPFF)
IPF, which includes the word “idiopathic,” to this day has no known cause. It causes inflammation and lung scarring (fibrosis), which results in a progressive decline in lung function and a reduced quality of life. It is estimated that 30,000 Canadians have pulmonary fibrosis, and that up to 5,000 have the idiopathic form, which is known to have a higher mortality rate compared to pancreatic, lung, and liver cancer.
Earlier this year, findings on Esbriet were presented during the International Conference of the American Thoracic Society (ATS) and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which showed it significantly reduced loss of pulmonary function by nearly 50%, and decline in the 6-minute walk distance (6MWD) test by 27.5%. When data from several studies were gathered and cross-examined, Esbriet was noted to reduce all-cause mortality by 48% compared to those who were on a placebo.
The CPFF is still pushing for this drug’s public funding in other Canadian provinces. A recommendation on this matter can be expected by Spring next year. New Brunswick IPF patients who wish to take advantage of Esbriet must first obtain a prescription for the medication from an attending respirologist and enroll themselves in the Inspiration Program under InterMune Canada. Click here for the patient criteria set by the NBPDP.