Sunday, April 17, 2022 | 2 a.m.
I have to buy my medications from Mexico, because U.S. drug prices are so expensive.
As someone who has had chronic conditions since childhood, I never expected that I’d someday need a friend to buy my life-saving medications from Mexico.
Since my youth, I’ve been living with three rare genetic diseases, including congestive heart failure. In my mid-40s, I was also diagnosed with diabetes, from high doses of prednisone used to treat a sinus condition. All of these conditions require me to take daily prescription drugs.
On top of the $817 a month I pay for health insurance, I typically spend around $700 a month for other medical costs such as prescriptions, out-of-pocket medical costs, and items not covered by insurance that are essential to maintaining my health. While most of my medications are older and their costs are not deal-breaking, newer medications are rarely covered. Costs for a single drug can be more than a mortgage payment.
My medical situation has grown more challenging since March of 2020, when I contracted COVID-19. I did not recover and have what is believed to be Long COVID, which has caused intense fatigue, vertigo and brain fog. It has also exacerbated my existing problems with blood pressure and blood sugar, putting me on the verge of needing insulin. To control my blood sugar, my doctors prescribed me two new medications: Ozempic and Farxiga.
Despite orders from two doctors, my insurance initially refused to cover Farxiga. I was fortunate that my doctor was able to give me samples for six months, but I knew I could not rely on samples forever. When they ran out, I followed every step to try to convince insurance to cover it. After months of refused coverage, I was finally told it was approved. I was excited and immediately submitted the prescription to the pharmacy.
But when I went there to pick up the Farxiga, the pharmacist told me it would cost $565 for a month’s supply. Insurance had only covered $60, leaving me the $505 bill.
I wanted to cry. I need this medication to keep my blood sugar down and, despite doing everything I was told to do, they only covered $60. I could not afford it.
I posted on Facebook about what happened and a friend soon reached out to tell me that he could pick up my prescription during his trip to Mexico. He said Farxiga costs $50 to $60 for a month’s supply in Mexico. If I purchased three months’ worth of medication, they would throw in the fourth for free.
I was a little worried about getting my medication from outside of the country. How could I know it was real and not counterfeit? But my friend vouched for the pharmacy in Mexico, and he ended up picking up my medications from there.
The new combination of meds took my highly elevated A1C of 10.7 down to 7.2 in eight months. Without those meds, my blood sugar would have remained out of control.
This has been my only solution ever since. I can’t tell you how thankful I am for that pharmacy and that friend, but I am also distraught that drugs here are so unaffordable that patients like me have to go out of the country to get medications. I worry every day about what will happen if my friend can’t get that medication for me anymore. How high will my costs be then?
We need Congress to fix this. President Joe Biden has proposed an economic agenda that would allow Medicare to negotiate the cost of prescription drugs, limit the ability of drug companies to hike prices on life-sustaining medications, and cap insulin copays at $35 per month. The House has passed the Affordable Insulin Now Act but the Senate has not. We can’t let this issue fall by the wayside.
These reforms would make my daily life much less stressful. Do you know what it is like to get up and spend an extra $1,500 a month just to stay alive? I often think of all the things I could have invested in to better my life if not for the financial weight of drug costs holding me down. If my costs are reduced, I can finally begin to spend my money on other things I’ve been dreaming of, like a mortgage for my own house.
Kristine Schachinger lives in Las Vegas, where she works as an SEO consultant.