Melissa Verleg breaks down in tears as she talks to media about her efforts to get coverage for a drug that would slow the progression of her Cystic Fibrosis. MLA Eric Foster, at right, is doing what he can to convince the Ministry of Health and a drug firm to provide compassionate care. (Pete McIntyre/Beach Radio News photo)
A Vernon woman is making another desperate plea for help from the BC government and a drug company.
Melissa Verleg suffers from cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that mostly affects the lungs.
She says the drug Orkambi helped to slow down the progression of the disease, but her husband’s work medical benefits stopped covering it in January, and the province has so far refused to cover the estimated 20-thousand dollar a month cost.
“And since then, I have been sick and lost 12% of lung function. I’m down to 46%. I can not grocery shop. I can not clean my house. I can not play with my children,” Verleg told a news conference at the MLA’s office in Vernon.
The 34 year old Verleg has the support of local Liberal MLA Eric Foster who is doing what he can to convince the Minister of Health and the drug firm Vertex, to provide compassionate care, but Foster says they don’t feel Melissa is sick enough yet.
“What’s happened is the Minister of Health the and drug company are fighting about money and politics, and Melissa has been the negative beneficiary of that deal,” says Foster.
Verleg says at some point she will need a lung transplant, but Orkambi could stabilize her symptoms for perhaps up to 10 more years.
“There is no guarantee I will get that any of that level of function back. I believe it’s all because I came off Orkambi. I’m just going downhill from here. I’m still sick. I’m still fighting. I have to be a spectator in my life now,” said Verleg, through tears.
She is a married mother of two boys, aged 7 and 9.
“Basically I’m just in limbo waiting for someone to help me, or to get sick enough to get a double lung transplant. There is no alternatives. I just feel one of them could do their part and try to let me live a normal healthy life.”
Foster says he has contacted both Minister of Health Adrian Dix, and Vertex, to urge them to help Verleg.
“This is about money. They (province) don’t want to pay as much and the company wants more. I’m confident somewhere along the line, they will come to an agreement, but in the meantime, Melissa gets sicker every day,” says Foster.
“I’m disgusted with these people,” says Foster. “The company wants us to do what we’re doing right now. They want to try and lay the blame all on the minister. They own every bit as much of the blame as he does.”
Foster says the decision won’t cost millions of dollars.
“There is only one person in the province who is in this situation, that had coverage, and the coverage was taken away. It’s not going to open any flood gates.”
Beach Radio News has reached out to the Ministry of Health for an update on Verleg’s request for assistance.