Saskatchewan says it will now cover two more treatments for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) under the province's publicly funded drug plan.
The province said that effective Friday, eligible patients can now consider Albrioza and the tablet form of Radicava for treatment.
Advocates say the decision can make a difference for those with ALS.
"It's great news that they are now included in the provincial formulary for a couple reasons," said Shawn Dreger, board chair of the ALS Society of Saskatchewan.
"One is just … to cover the costs. And the more people that are able to take these drugs, by far the better."
ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a fatal neurodegenerative disease that can cause patients to rapidly lose the ability to speak and move.
As their condition progresses, the ability for ALS patients to perform daily activities, such as eating or grooming themselves, is significantly impacted. Eventually, it can result in the loss of essential functions like swallowing and breathing.
There is no known cure for ALS.
Dreger said that once someone is diagnosed with the disease, their life expectancy drops to two to five years.
That's why covering the treatments is so important, he said.
"In a lot of patients it can prolong the onset of symptoms, and hopefully end of life, it'll extend that as well," said Dreger.
He said that many treatments for ALS can be "very, very expensive" when not covered by the provincial government — potentially reaching hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
The Ministry of Health said the number of patients who may benefit from the new treatments is unknown at this time.
It added that Albrioza costs $18,500 a month per patient, which works out to more than $220,000 a year.
The price for Radicava is approximately $130,000 a year.
Dreger is particularly excited for the Radicava tablets, as the drug was previously only available through an intravenous drip. That forced patients to go to the hospital to receive treatment. Now they'll be able to take it at home.
Provincial Health Minister Everett Hindley touted the change in a Friday news release.
"Providing patients living with ALS additional treatment options is crucial, given the speed at which this disease progresses," said Hindley.
"Saskatchewan residents living with ALS know how debilitating this disease can be. Including these medications on the Saskatchewan formulary gives patients access to potentially life-changing treatments."
Patients or families who think their family members may benefit from the newly covered medications are encouraged to speak with their doctor.