By Kathy Walsh

DENVER (CBS4)– The experts call it a game changer. The FDA has approved a new breakthrough treatment for cystic fibrosis.

Cystic Fibrosis

(credit: CBS)

Trikafta is a combination of three drugs and the first therapy able to treat 90% of patients with the rare, life threatening disease.

Hannah Wiberg Cystic Fibrosis

(credit: CBS)

It is improving the quality of life for these patients and has the potential to be life extending.

Hannah Wiberg has been on the drug for two months. She calls it amazing.

Hannah Wiberg Cystic Fibrosis

Hannah Wiberg (credit: CBS)

Twice a day, Hannah wears a vest that vibrates while she inhales a salt water mist to break up thick mucus in her lungs. At 3 weeks old, she was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.

Hannah Wiberg Cystic Fibrosis

(credit: Hannah Wiberg)

“You have a cough a lot of the time and it’s a lot harder to breathe,” Hannah told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.

Hannah Wiberg Cystic Fibrosis

CBS4’s Kathy Walsh interviews Hannah Wiberg (credit: CBS)

As she got older, Hannah developed complications. Infections put her in the hospital nearly a dozen times. She needed oxygen 24/7.

Hannah Wiberg Cystic Fibrosis

(credit: Hannah Wiberg)

At just 22 years old, Hannah was headed for a lung transplant.

Hannah Wiberg Cystic Fibrosis

Hannah Wiberg (credit: CBS)

“It was scary just knowing because you consider transplant when you’re very low function and about two years left of estimated life,” she said.

Cystic Fibrosis

(credit: CBS)

But on Sept. 17, Hannah was handed hope in a pill. She started taking the new breakthrough therapy called Trikafta. The improvement was immediate.

Hannah Wiberg Cystic Fibrosis

(credit: Hannah Wiberg)

“I call it a miracle, but I don’t mean that lightly. This was not expected… sorry I’m getting emotional, but it’s just like added years to my life,” Hannah said choking back tears.

Hannah’s pulmonologist, Dr. Jennifer Taylor-Cousar, gets emotional, too.

Jennifer Taylor-Cousar Cystic Fibrosis

Jennifer Taylor-Cousar (credit: CBS)

“It is truly a miracle for her and for many, many people,” said Taylor-Cousar, Director of the cystic fibrosis program at National Jewish Health.

Trikafta, a three-drug combo, can treat 90% of cystic fibrosis patients. In just six weeks, Trikafta has increased Hannah’s lung function by 13%.

national jewish Cystic Fibrosis

(credit: CBS)

She’s off oxygen and on cloud nine.

“I don’t think I realized how bad I was until I felt this good,” said Hannah.

“It’s really, really, amazing, game-changing sort of medication,” said Taylor-Cousar.

Hannah Wiberg Cystic Fibrosis

(credit: CBS)

Hannah is in graduate school studying special education. The drug has put her dreams of a career, marriage and children within reach.

“Grow old and see my grandkids hopefully. I have a lot more hope than I did last year,” she said.

Trikafta costs about $311,000 a year, but Hannah’s insurance plan covers it. She’ll pay just $15 a month.

Hannah Wiberg Cystic Fibrosis

Hannah Wiberg (credit: CBS)

Trikafta is not a cure for cystic fibrosis, but Hannah has hopes there is a cure on the horizon.

National Jewish Health in Denver has the largest adult cystic fibrosis center in the United States and provides ongoing treatment for hundreds of adults with this life-long disease.

Kathy Walsh

Comments (2)
  1. Christopher Lorenz says:

    I’m glad the treatment is so effective. However, how are others with the same condition expected to pay $311,000 per year to stay alive if their insurance does not cover the cost?

  2. Donna P. Stork says:

    Why so costly?

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