Kimberley man denied funding for life-saving drug

Drug costs $3200 every 21 days, right now BC Cancer Agency won’t fund it for Chris Weitzel

Diagnosed with Stage 3c esophageal cancer in February of 2014, Chris Weitzel believes that a trip to Mexico for treatment vastly improved his quality, and length, of life. But now he feels that taking his health care into his own hands has cost him — he says the BC Cancer Agency won’t fund the drug he needs because he sought alternative treatment. And that drug, Herceptin — costs $3200 every 21 days.

Weitzel says he was told by an oncologist at the BC Cancer Agency that the chemo they recommended would not save him.

“I asked how much the chemo would prolong my life — no answer.  I was not open to the amount of chemo they suggested. At this time Herceptin was prescribed.

“I was not able to have radiation due to my inability to swallow. My throat closed completely for three weeks and the medical system did nothing about this. I asked for options. No.”

At this point, Weitzel began to search for other forms of cancer therapy that might help him and he found a more holistic treatment in Mexico, which included chemo but at a very low dose.

“I was left with no other option but to leave the country to save my life,” he said.

While in Mexico, Weitzel was under the care of a licensed oncologist and MD.

“I did chemo and various other modalities including the mono clonal antibody (anti cancer drug) Herceptin. I am required to take this drug every 21 days. For six months to a year. It costs $3200 every 21 days.”

“I came back to Canada (much healthier) and had an appointment with my Oncologist. The first thing she said was ‘wow, you look great’. My CT scans at this point have shown huge improvements. She commented that the only thing that was working for me was the Herceptin.

And here’s where Weitzel ran into the road block.

“The oncologist said that ‘we (BC Cancer Agency) probably wont fund it because you have not done “our” chemo’,” Weitzl said. “She bargained with me saying that if I took one dose of chemo (who knows what) she would fund my Herceptin, then went on to say if I took a half dose she would fund this. I do have this recorded.”

Weitzel then missed his next appointment with an oncologist because he was out of the country getting infused with Herceptin (at his own expense). He says the BC Cancer Agency won’t infuse him here, even at his own expense.

“I have now missed two rounds of my drugs due to expense and inability to have it infused here,” Weitzel said.

Weitzel has attempted to get funding through a trial with Rauch Pharmaceuticals, but the company wants a letter of confirmation from the BCCA that he has been denied and so far has been unsuccessful in getting one.

“If I’m not denied funding give me my medication, and if I am denied, give me a letter,” he said. “I really believe that because I have chosen to take my health into my own hands and ask questions, that I am being punished.”

Weitzel had another meeting with an oncologist last week, but has still not received an answer on whether they will fund the medication.

The Bulletin contacted the BC Cancer Agency for an explanation and received this reply:

“The BC Cancer Agency has treatment protocols in place to ensure that people in BC receive the very best in evidence-based cancer care. We work to be flexible and compassionate with patients when discussing their treatment options, while always balancing the need to ensure patient safety and efficacy.”