An Ottawa woman died of complications from hepatitis C because she could not afford a lifesaving drug that the province does not yet cover, her family says.
Brenda Peever, 60, was hospitalized on Nov. 2 with late-stage liver cirrhosis and died two days later. She could not afford the newly approved drug, Sovaldi, which has a 90 per cent cure rate.
Health Canada approved Sovaldi in January, but it is not yet covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). Peever’s doctors had told her that she was a good candidate for the drug, which costs $654 per pill.
Peever’s daughter, Jennifer, says she begged for help for her mother. She started a petition at Change.org to urge provincial officials to fast track the drug through the approval process.
She also asked the Ontario Ministry of Health to provide the drug to her mother and others like her on compassionate grounds, arguing they may die before Sovaldi is approved for coverage under OHIP.
“The story needs to be told. She died because of red tape,” Jennifer Peever told CTV Ottawa on Monday.
“I told them she was going to die. I knew it.”
Her petition received 66,000 signatures, “and yet nobody listened,” Peever said.
Her mother may have died a week ago, Peever said, but “the day she died was the day they told her she couldn’t have the medicine because she didn’t have any money.”
Ontario’s health minister was not available for comment on Monday. However, officials with the department of health and long-term care said they are currently negotiating a price with the drug manufacturer.
Brenda Peever contracted hep C during a blood transfusion in 1979, but only learned that she had received tainted blood in 2000.
In 2010, she began treatment with interferon drugs that led to severe side effects including nausea, thinning hair, reduced appetite and depression.
She had to end her treatment after 24 weeks when her doctor informed her that it was not working.
In February, Brenda Peever told CTV News that she had stage 4 liver disease.
“The next step is death,” she said at the time.
Jennifer Peever says she cannot afford the cost of her mother’s funeral and burial, and has started a crowdfunding page to raise about $10,000.
With a report from CTV Ottawa’s Natalie Pierosara