MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A brand new medical breakthrough is expected to drastically change the lives of Minnesotans living with Cystic Fibrosis.

Most people with the disease live to be in their 40’s, but there is now more hope than ever before.

Like many Cystic Fibrosis patients, Nikki Malnar has been through the ringer.

“My parents were told they’d be lucky if I lived to age 8,” Malnar said.

But at 43 she’s alive, thanks to a double lung transplant. It was a traumatic yet liberating experience that means a cocktail of pills, an experience for which she hopes other CF patients are spared.

Thanks to a simple pill called Trikafta.

“I know if something like this would have been around before my transplant it may have prevented me from having a transplant all together and that’s incredible to think about,” Malnar said. “I’m so excited for everybody who’s qualified for this medication.”

On Monday, the FDA approved Trikafta and Malnar’s doctor is all in.

Dr. Jordan Dunitz is with M Health Fairview as a Critical Care Physician and Pulmonologist, and Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School.

“What we’ve seen so far is anywhere from a 10-15% lung function, which is more than any drug we’ve had. For CF, it’s a really big change,” Dr. Dunitz explained.

The drug increases the airflow and could be effective on 90% of CF patients who are used to grueling treatments.

“We’ve got a chance to make people’s lives feel better, make them feel comfortable, enjoy their days, hopefully spend less time in the hospital,” Dr. Dunitz said.

“Now these people with CF like myself are going to be able to plan a future,” Malnar added.

The FDA approved the drug 5 months ahead of schedule.

The hope is that Trykafta will help increase the life span of CF patients from 40’s to a standard life span.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield

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