Some patients living with cystic fibrosis are breathing better for the first time in years thanks to a landmark treatment that just received FDA approval.
The clinical trials for the new treatment were conducted in Chicago, and one local man says the treatments have changed his life.
Peter Gianopolus says that he used to cough so hard that he would regularly cough up blood.
“There would be a lot of days when I would go to sleep after a bleed and the one prayer on my lips was please let me make it to the next day to spend another day with my wife and son,” he says.
The 40 year old husband and father has cystic fibrosis, a life threatening hereditary disease that produces thick mucus that clogs the lungs.
Desperate for relief, Gianopulos has taken part in numerous clinical trials for medications, including one at Northwestern Medicine in 2017.
“As soon as I took it, I felt, literally, within 24 hours, a difference,” Gianopulos said.
That medication was Trikafta, daily pills that proved so effective, the drug earned FDA approval in October 2019 for patients age 12 and over.
“I think when we look back at the history of cystic fibrosis, the approval of this drug will be a landmark in our ability to treat cystic fibrosis patients,” said Dr. Manu Jain, Director of Adult Cystic Fibrosis Program at Northwestern Medicine.
In his 20 years treating cystic fibrosis patients, Dr. Jain said he’s never seen a more promising drug that is effective for so many patients.
“This drug has the ability to treat 90% of patients, which is truly remarkable,” Dr. Jain said.
Many cystic fibrosis patients end up needing a lung transplant. The hope with this new drug is it will delay that need or eliminate it entirely.
“I think this medication, hopefully, has moved that date back. I hope years. I pray decades,” Gianopulos said.
The FDA has approved Trifakta for cystic fibroris patients age 12 and over. Clinical trials are underway at Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago to determine if the drug is as effective for younger patients.