Parkinson's patients in Kamloops applaud B.C. funding for duodopa

By Chad Klassen
February 15, 2017 - 11:45am Updated: February 15, 2017 - 4:41pm

KAMLOOPS — The Parkinson's Awareness Group in Kamloops is applauding the province's move to begin funding a crucial drug for people suffering through severe Parkinson's. 

The drug, duodopa, costs $60,000 a year — a bill previously footed by patients themselves. But on Tuesday, B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake announced it will now be covered by the province.

"The duodopa is a medicinal gel that will be, there will be a pump that will be inserted into the small intestine, and then the gel will go in on a continual basis," said Rendy Olthuis, the facilitator of the Parkinson's Awareness Group. 

At Wednesday's monthly Parkinson's support meeting in Kamloops, the funding of duodopa is being celebrated as a step forward. 

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"It's nice to see them being proactive rather than reactive, and spending the money before they incur a bunch of health costs that may be unnecessary if people have the treatment beforehand," said Olthuis. 

Olthuis, the organizer of the annual Parkinson's Walk in Kamloops, has had the disease for more than 20 years. She says no one at Wednesday's meeting would be eligible. Only about a dozen across the province will be. 

"These people have passed the point where the medication is working for them, and they're advanced to severe Parkinson's and not able to live with any quality of life," she said. 

Kamloops resident Ian McKichan also has lived with Parkinson's for more than two decades. But his tremors have improved significantly over the last four years thanks to deep-brain stimulation, a surgical procedure he had in 2013. 

"Deep-brain stimulation is a procedure where they put electrodes into your brain, and they control how the body reacts to dopamine," said McKichan. 

Ever since the procedure, McKichan still travels to Vancouver twice a year for a check-up and to adjust the electrodes, ensuring they're working. He just wishes the province would hire more physicians to help patients suffering. 

"I've always wondered why they only have one surgeon to do the deep-brain stimulation, which is Dr. Honey at UBC," said McKichan. "I know he's doing as much as he can, but he certainly needs more doctors assisting him." 

The hope is, with this latest funding of duodopa, it's the start of more help for Parkinson's patients who need it most. 

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