herald

Sunday 22 October 2017

'Please don't stop life-saving drug', pleads dad Gerry

Gerry Finnerty fears he will soon lose access to Respreeza
Gerry Finnerty fears he will soon lose access to Respreeza

A man with a chronic lung disease has said his life could be cut short after it emerged that the drug he is taking may be withdrawn.

Father-of-two Gerry Finnerty (59), from Swords, said he fears the consequences if he is denied access to the Respreeza.

Due to a disagreement over its price between the HSE and manufacturer CSL Behring, Mr Finnerty is now depending on the Government to commit to long-term funding for the drug.

He is one of 21 patients in Ireland who has received Res-preeza to treat the life-limiting condition Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency.

Alpha-1 is a protein produced in the liver that protects the lungs from environmental damage such as cigarette smoke, which accounts for 90pc of emphysema cases.

Infections

A lack of the protein can lead to severe lung, liver and skin problems, with most sufferers developing emphysema.

Mr Finnerty told the Herald the drug has greatly increased his quality of life.

"I've been very active all my life, but when I got into my 40s I started to get a shortness of breath and severe chest infections," he said.

"My GP was treating me for asthma, but when I got a blood test done I was finally diagnosed with Alpha-1.

"At the time I hadn't a clue what it was and was told there was no cure, which was very worrying.

"I'm a big golfer and soon found myself unable to walk the full course without getting extremely out of breath and tired."

Mr Finnerty was among the first people in Ireland to trial Respreeza, and at first was not sure what effect it would have.

"I've been taking this drug for 10 years and am quite certain it has stopped my emphysema from getting worse and my lungs deteriorating," he said.

"I'm not getting as many chest infections as I did in the past and I'm still capable of working and living a relatively normal life."

With just over four weeks to go, the clock is ticking towards May 31, which is when CSL Behring has indicated it will be withdrawing Respreeza therapy from Ireland.

The Alpha One Foundation, established in 2001 to raise awareness of the condition, is petitioning the company to lift its proposed deadline.

"It's very worrying that this drug may be withdrawn," Mr Finnerty said.

"It has increased my quality of life. If it wasn't for Respreeza, who knows if I would be even here today?"

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