Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Dear Mr. Health Minister #2

November 23, 2010

Dear Mr. Zwozdesky:

On November 4, 2010, I submitted a letter and 1144 petition signatures to request that Tykerb, a Her 2 positive targeted breast cancer treatment, be covered in the province of Alberta.

Since submitting this package, Kelly Mah from Edmonton has been featured in the Edmonton Journal, The Edmonton Sun, and Global News regarding this same issue. You have responded to this press by advising the drug is still under review and a decision should be made by the end of the month.

You have asked us to respect there is a process to reviewing such coverage; however, it is frustrating when our processing is months behind other provinces, such as Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia. It is also frustrating when both of our provincial neighbors are covering the drug while we are not.

I trust you will do right by Albertans and cover this drug very soon. I have enclosed an additional 219 paper signatures and 231 online signatures to have Tykerb covered in the province of Alberta. To date that would be a total of 1598 signatures submitted.

Since I have not yet received a response from my November 4th package, I look forward to hearing from you very soon with some good news. I can be contacted at 403-343-6562.

Brenda Odovichuc

Monday, November 15, 2010

Tykerb Petition

Please sign the attached petition:



Tykerb Makes the News!

An absolutely beautiful woman named Kelly made the Edmonton Global news on Friday night. She too is trying to get Tykerb covered in Alberta. I am sooooo thankful that she wrote a letter to the Edmonton Journal which created a whirlwind of publicity.

Kelly called me today to tell me she is being featured again tonight on the 5 o'clock Global news and her doctor may potentially be interviewed on Wednesday.

Go Kelly Go!

Dear Mr. Health Minister

Following is the letter submitted to our Minister of Health and Wellness:

November 4th, 2010

Gene Zwozdesky
Minster of Health and Wellness
#208, 10800-97 Ave
Edmonton, AB
T5K 2B6

Dear Mr. Zwozdesky:

Another October has come and gone. Athletes have hung-up their pink cleats, and stores have taken down their 'pink' displays - Breast Cancer Awareness month is done for another year. However, breast cancer does not stop on November 1st. According to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, an estimated 23,200 women in Canada will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010. That means this week alone, 445 women will hear the devastating words: "you have cancer".

My name is Brenda Odovichuc, and on August 11, 2008 at the age of 31, I found a lump in my breast. After having surgery, it was soon discovered the cancer had already spread into my sternum - I was classified as Stage 4 (not curable). It is an extremely heavy load to bear in your early thirties, knowing that you may not have long to live. And it only got worse - in December of 2008, the cancer spread to many of my bones, my liver, and my right lung.

I have been overwhelmed by the whole cancer treatment experience. I had a lumpectomy, 30 treatments of radiation, 10 rounds of Docetaxol chemotherapy, and over 20 treatments of Herceptin. I tried Tomoxifen, Femara, Goserelin, until finally having my ovaries removed. I get a monthly dosage of Pamidornate to help protect my bones, and I am currently on my 5th round of Xeloda and Tykerb. Sometimes it surprises even me that I am still alive.

I have experienced excellent care from my oncologists and the nurses at the Cross Cancer Institute and the Red Deer Cancer Clinic, but it was very discouraging when my doctor informed me that the drug he recommended, Tykerb (a new targeted Her2 therapy), would not be covered by the government like my other cancer treatments had been. I was fortunate to have a very good drug plan at the time (100%), but I have often thought, 'What would somebody do if they did not have insurance? and 'Who can actually afford this treatment?' A 30 day supply costs $3,496.57.

My 100% coverage did not last long - two months later my husband's employer was forced to reduce their drug coverage to 80% because of my claims. An 80% plan is still good, but even with 80% coverage, the Tykerb alone still costs us almost $700 per month. I panicked and called the drug company directly. I received approval for 10% coverage, which certainly helps, but I am still not content.

You see, as an insurance broker I know how health and dental plans work. If I were to claim Tykerb for an extended length of time, I risk the small company's ability to even offer any form of substantial benefits. In September 2010, Reader's Digest featured an article called 'Map of Shame'. In the article, a woman specialized kidney drug crumbled her husband's drug plan - it was forced to reduce it's coverage from 100% to an annual maximum of $10,000. The woman died 5 months later simply because they could not afford her life preserving drug.

I have since learned that Tykerb is fully funded in Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia and I feel the Alberta government is letting breast cancer patients, such as myself, down. Why isn't Alberta covering this drug when others are?

The primary drug of choice used to treat Her2 positive breast cancer is Hercpetin. In elementary terms, Herceptin attacks the cancer cell like a Pac Man and is fully funded by the Alberta government. Tykerb was just made available this year, and is now a second form of Her2 targeted treatment. The drug does not attack the cell like a Pac Man, but burrows itself in like a tic and works from the inside. Both of these drug fulfill a similar objective, yet the government only funds Herceptin - I very strongly feel this displays Medicine Discrimination.

As a Her2 positive breast cancer patient I am hopeful a drug named TDM1 is currently being researched with positive results. I realize I may never live long enough to experience the power of this drug; however, I would still like to shed light on this drug in my petition. I encourage the government to do their part in the research of this drug and to participate in ongoing studies.

In less than 30 days I was able to obtain 1082 signatures on a paper petition and 62 signatures on an online petition to demand coverage of Tykerb in the province of Alberta. I admit, when I originally drafted the petition I was very emotional as I had just discovered other provinces were currently covering the drug. If I had an opportunity to re-write the petition, I would have replaced the word 'demand' with 'urge', as written in the online petition. However, I would like to point out that to my knowledge the wording only caused two individuals to abstain from signing the petition. When the Red Deer Advocate posted an article about my petition on their website, only two naysayers did not want to see Tykerb covered in Alberta. The Red Deer Advocate printed a full article in their October 23rd issue.

I trust my letter, and enclosed signatures are sufficient to cause the Alberta government to review their policy on Tykerb. I look forward to hearing from you directly at 403-343-6562. You can learn more about me and my cancer journey on my blog at:


Brenda Odovichuc

cc letter:
Mr. Ed Stelmach, Alberta Premier
David Swann, Lead of the Official Opposition
Mary Anne Jablonski, Red Deer MLA
Cal Dallas, Red Deer MLA
The Cross Cancer Insitute
Dez Melenka, CTV News
Su-Ling Goh, Global News
Hana Gartner, CBC Fifth Estate
Jodie Sinnema, The Edmonton Journal
Michelle Thompson, Edmonton Sun