This is my friend Beth, and her fourteen year old son, Josh. Beth is one of my oldest and dearest friends. We met in our early twenties when we were working on neighboring horse farms, became fast friends and have stayed so through multiple job and career changes, moves, childbirth - thick and thin. Beth is a single working mother, 52 years old, a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and a lifetime horsewoman and animal lover.
In March 2013, Beth was diagnosed with renal clear cell carcinoma and had one kidney removed. She bounced back from this surgery phenomenally well, was back at work in 2 ½ weeks, and got on a horse again in four weeks. Renal clear cell does not respond to chemotherapy or radiation, so her doctors opted for a conservative approach of monitoring. In December 2013, one of her routine scans found a lump in one of her lungs. On December 31, 2013, she had a surgery to remove a wedge shaped section of her lung. At this point, they graded her condition as Stage 4 cancer, and advised her that the 5 year survival rate was 25%. She simply refuses to accept that statistic, as she has a son to raise.
But then there was some good news. She started immunotherapy with a drug called Votrient. She has had minimal side effects from the drug, it did not interfere with her working and her latest scan in April was clean! The Votrient was expensive, $250.00/month, but she had a supplemental insurance policy that helped with that.
In April, Beth's insurance changed. Her employer requested that their employees price insurance on the healthcare exchange, and then asked them to purchase insurance through the exchange and that they would provide a subsidy. Beth did very careful research to insure that she was getting equivalent coverage, and it seemed that she was. She even checked to make sure Votrient was covered under her new policy "“ it was, as a tier 4 drug.
Now the bad news. Under her new coverage, the co-insurance payment for one month's supply of Votrient is $1,183.00. The coinsurance. It's an FDA approved, covered drug, yet the individual's cost, *after* insurance, is $1,183.00. A month.
There is no way she can pay for the drug on her own, so she started looking for resources. Glaxo Smith Kline, Votrient's manufacturer, turned her down for their assistance program because she is insured through the exchange. Multiple nonprofits, including CancerCare.org, Patient Advocate Foundation (PAF), Patient Services Inc. "“ Co-payment Assistance Program, and MCV/VCU Patient Assistance, among others, all turned her down because she is still working and/or she has too high an income. She has even contacted LINC which is a non-profit LEGAL service for people that are dealing with cancer and they can't help because she has insurance. The American Cancer Society does not have a grant program for this relatively unusual cancer.
Beth has been working with her oncologist and social workers at Medical College of Virginia. Their best advice, after weeks of research, is for her to apply for disability. Her diagnosis of metastatic kidney cancer would qualify her immediately. But that's ridiculous, she's not disabled! As long as she can stay on the prescription, she is able and wants to work!
To summarize: this drug is keeping her alive and cancer free with few side effects. It's allowing her to continue to work and support her son. Even though it's an approved drug, and covered, the coinsurance payment is ~$1200.00 a month, almost $15,000. a year. How many individuals could afford $15,000. a year, even if their lives depended on it? I am very much afraid that Beth's does, and she can't afford it.
Please, if you are willing and able, help me keep my cherished friend alive and healthy and keep Josh's mother around to finish raising him; contribute towards the cost of Beth's Votrient prescription.
Thanks for reading.