FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- For decades, doctors had little hope for patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, or IPF, a disease that scars the lungs and makes it hard to breathe. Now, for the first time, doctors say new drugs can buy patients some time.
Carmen "Frank" Capece explained, "You just can't catch your breath, and you're suffocating, like someone has a pillow over your face."
Frank has trouble doing things that most people take for granted. He told Ivanhoe, "Even talking is very difficult and I always love to talk."
His wife, Terry Capece, helps him do everything because he's hooked up to oxygen 24-seven.
"This hose is my lifeline and there's nothing that I can do about it right now," Frank lamented.
Nine years ago, Frank was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a scarring of the lungs that makes it tough to breathe. But two new drugs, OFEV and Esbriet, can slow down its progression, buying patients time while they wait for a lung transplant.
Gerard Criner, M.D., Professor and Chair at the Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia said, "And that's clearly, clearly a significant improvement in how we care for patients right now."
Dr. Criner said these drugs are game changers. For the first time in 30 years, he's optimistic.
"It's a serious disease, but it's never been better, and we can make it even better yet for patients who have this disease, so that's exciting. I mean there's hope for patients," Dr. Criner expressed.
Frank said, "Thanks to him, I think I'm going to be fine."
Finally, hope for Frank and thousands more waiting for new lungs.
The American Lung Association estimates that 140,000 people are living with IPF. Fifty thousand new cases are diagnosed every year.