Gordon Burwash was given three to five years to live after being diagnosed with a lung disease called “idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis”. But thanks to a clinical trial at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, the 72-year old has outlived his prognosis. Research shows a drug could help prolong the lives of the 10 to 12-thousand Canadians diagnosed with the disease.
Gordon Burwash was carrying luggage up a flight of stairs while on vacation when he noticed something wasn’t quite right: “So I came back home. I didn’t feel well. I thought I had pneumonia.”
He was referred to Doctor Martin Kolb at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton who diagnosed Burwash with the lung disease “Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis” — or IPF: “The lungs build up scar tissue without a good explanation why that would happen.”
IPF causes breathlessness that worsens each day. It’s normally found in people over 60. About half of those diagnosed will die within three or four years.
Gordon said: “The hardest part was telling the kids. And the thoughts of, we have 6 grandkids and how long will I be around to see them. That’s the hard part.”
Burwash agreed to be part of a clinical trial for Nintedanib. A drug originally developed to slow down cancer progression.
“This is a pill form and it has shown it doesn’t stop the disease but it makes the worsening less quick.”
Researchers at St. Joes concluded Nintedanib slows down IPF progression by approximately 50 percent per year. It’s now been 7 years since Burwash was diagnosed.
Gordon said: “The life isn’t the one I wanted. But the alternative isn’t great either. So I’ve very pleased with the drug.”
Clinical trials took place in 30 countries across the globe including here at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. The drug could be approved for use in Canada by as early as 2015.
If approved, Nintedanib would be the second drug used to treat IPF. The hope is it will be the first to be covered by public healthcare.
Gordon said: “I’m happy because I’m still here. And that’s the best part of the whole thing.”