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UPDATE: Drug company picks up tab for local cancer patient

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Denise Wade says she is “over the moon”

Cathy Dobson 

A local woman who launched a campaign to get the cost of her $10,000-a-month cancer drug covered is “in total shock” after learning Wednesday that the drug’s manufacturer has agreed to pay for it indefinitely.

“I got a call from the pharmacy and they asked me if I was sitting down, then said that AstraZeneca has approved my Tagrisso for the rest of my life,” said Denise Wade.

“I said, you’ve got to be kidding me! I cannot believe it. I’m in absolute shock.”

Wade is a 69-year-old St. Clair Township resident and has been battling cancer since 2017 and taking Tagrisso for the past two years. It’s a prescription drug used to treat Stage 4 non-small cell lung carcinomas with specific mutations.

Her results since taking Tagrisso daily have been encouraging, shrinking tumours in her brain from eight to one and stopping growth in the cancers impacting both lungs. 

But her insurance coverage that is paying the $9,981 cost of Tagrisso expires in November and Wade has been appealing to the provincial government to pick up the cost.

She maintains Tagrisso is extending her life with almost no side effects. In the past month, she has worked with family and friends on a petition that attracted more than 16,000 signatures and did an interview with The Sarnia Journal. She was also organizing a protest outside MPP Bob Bailey’s office after the provincial government turned down her request for coverage three times.

But everything changed yesterday.

Things didn’t start well on Wednesday but quickly improved, Wade explained.

“First thing in the morning, even before my coffee, the pharmacist from Bluewater Health called with terrible news and said my Sunlife benefits expired early without notice this month.

“I was just shaking my head. I couldn’t understand that.”

But the pharmacist called back a bit later and said Wade’s oncologists were talking with the Tagrisso rep Wednesday and AstraZeneca agreed to cover the drug cost.

“I don’t have the details yet but I’m in total shock,” she said. “I only have nine pills left and AstraZeneca is telling me they’ll deliver more to my door.

“I’m freaking out. This is out of the blue.”

Wade said her oncologist had previously asked AstraZeneca for financial assistance on her behalf and was turned down.

“I don’t know what happened to turn it all around but I really do think that going public with this helped,” she said. “AstraZeneca must have caught wind of the campaign.”

Wade spent Wednesday evening on the phone and social media alerting her many nephews and nieces about the good news. Her maiden name is Coutu and she grew up in Sarnia with 15 siblings.

“I have a lot of family who want to know what’s going on,” she said.

Wade thanked her doctors, her friends, family and many people she’s never met for supporting her during her campaign and said she still believes the provincial government should step up when live saving drugs are so expensive and people have no benefits.

The protest outside Bailey’s office has been cancelled.

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