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Health Manitoba makes HIV prevention pill, new cystic fibrosis drug eligible for provincial coverage

02:40  23 october  2021
02:40  23 october  2021 Source:   cbc.ca

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Health Minister Audrey Gordon announced the additions to Manitoba's drug formulary at a news conference Friday. © Kevin Nepitabo/CBC Health Minister Audrey Gordon announced the additions to Manitoba's drug formulary at a news conference Friday.

The Manitoba government is adding two new medications to its drug formulary, qualifying them for coverage for people who meet provincial eligibility criteria.

HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) — a pill studies show can significantly reduce the risk of HIV transmission — and Trikafta, a new triple-combination cystic fibrosis drug, will now be eligible for coverage, Health Minister Audrey Gordon said at a news conference Friday.

People will qualify if they are covered under Pharmacare — Manitoba's drug benefit program, which is based on either total family income or the amount paid for eligible drugs — or if they receive health coverage through Employment and Income Assistance.

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"Adding these two drugs to the provincial formulary will dramatically change the lives of Manitoba living with cystic fibrosis or who are at risk of HIV exposure," Gordon said.

The change came through Manitoba's participation in the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance, she said.

Nine Circles Community Health Centre executive director Mike Payne said the inclusion of PrEP in the list of drugs eligible for coverage will be a "game-changer" for people at risk of contracting HIV.

"I have no doubt that there are people who I would have met at Nine Circles through the Manitoba HIV program that I will never meet over the next couple of years because of this policy change," said Payne, whose health and social services agency supports people living with the virus.

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Mike Payne is the executive director of Nine Circles Community Health Centre in Winnipeg. © Kevin Nepitabo/CBC Mike Payne is the executive director of Nine Circles Community Health Centre in Winnipeg.

Medical practitioners who want to provide PrEP need to register to do so. More information about how to do that is available on the province's website. Detailed eligibility for the treatment and other information is also available online.

Trikafta changed life of son living with CF: mother

Patti Tweed said Trikafta has changed the lives of many people with cystic fibrosis who have been able to access the new drug through means like private insurance, including her 38-year-old son.

"There are those among us who have prayed every day for this day, for this announcement," said Tweed, who's also a member of Cystic Fibrosis Canada's volunteer advocacy group.

The disease causes a build up of thick mucus in the body, which can cause chronic respiratory infections, digestive problems and other complications.

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Cystic Fibrosis Canada says research suggests Trikafta — which attacks the disease at its root by fixing the faulty protein which causes the build up of mucus — could reduce severe lung disease in 60 per cent of people, increase life expectancy and reduce deaths by 15 per cent by the end of the decade.

The drug was approved by Health Canada in June for use with people age 12 and up, who have at least one genetic mutation that causes cystic fibrosis.

Payne and Tweed said both drug additions were the result of years of advocacy work. Now that they've been added, more work is needed to make sure the drugs actually get into the hands of people who need them.

Patti Tweed says Trikafta has changed the lives of many people with cystic fibrosis who have already been able to access the new drug through means like private insurance, including her 38-year-old son. © Kevin Nepitabo/CBC Patti Tweed says Trikafta has changed the lives of many people with cystic fibrosis who have already been able to access the new drug through means like private insurance, including her 38-year-old son.

"It's only going to work if folks are aware of the opportunity," Payne said, encouraging health-care providers who haven't already done so to educate themselves on PrEP quickly so they can make sure patients who would benefit from the drug get it.

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He said the preventative daily pill has been available for years and has shown a 20 to 30 per cent reduction in new cases in other regions that introduced coverage for it.

Until now, it was only available to Manitobans who could afford to pay for it, and new HIV infections in the province are among the highest in Canada, with upwards of 100 new cases a year, he said.

"Our epidemiology clearly shows that most of those communities at the highest risk for HIV have been the ones that are least likely to afford PrEP," Payne said, adding that infections are increasing disproportionately among Indigenous and Black people, gay men and younger people overall.

While the update comes too late for some diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, Tweed said it's still something to celebrate.

"It is for these people that we have had the will and the determination to make our story loud," Tweed said.

"It has taken too long for complex access systems to catch up to the science, but we celebrate today. A huge goal has been accomplished in Manitoba."

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