Cystic Fibrosis: New Medicine Gives Sufferers Hope

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Cystic Fibrosis is a life-threatening genetic condition that affects many families. There is no cure for the disease and treatment options are limited. The condition causes salty-tasting skin, poor growth, and poor weight gain. It also causes mucus to build up in the lungs, making it hard for the sufferer to breathe.

This can lead to lung and chest infections and other chronic illnesses. The disease is usually diagnosed at birth or during childhood. The prognosis for people who have cystic fibrosis has improved a lot over the last 50 years and as of 2010, survival is estimated to be 37 years for women and 40 for men.

A new medication that was just approved in Australia could help increase this rate even more and improve the quality of life for cystic fibrosis sufferers.

The new treatment is called ivacaftor and it is the first medication that can be used to treat the underlying cause of the condition. It will be marketed under the name Kalydeco and will be available in December.

"With this new treatment many patients can experience an improved quality of life with reductions in respiratory and gastrointestinal complications, improved lung function and fewer hospitalizations," Health Minister Peter Dutton said of the new treatment.

While the drug cannot cure cystic fibrosis, it can help lessen the symptoms and decrease infections.

Cystic Fibrosis Australia chief executive Michelle Skinner told ABC News 24 that the drug will be a big help to sufferers.

"The medications that [patients] take are significantly reduced," she said.

"[The result is] less time having quite invasive treatments, less hospitalizations and a much, much better quality of life for children and adults with CF."

Right now the drug is only available in a few countries, but it could find it's way to the United States and other countries as well. The Australian Government has approved $174.5 million the fund the medication.