New Multiple Sclerosis Drugs Are More Effective, But Come at a Steep Price

According to a story from Dallas News, Shereese Hickson is a 39-year-old single mother. She has multiple sclerosis, and it seemed like her symptoms were starting to flare up again. While her current treatment allowed her to take care of her son and walk, she found her coordination worsening, and fatigue was starting to become a serious problem. Her doctor switched to to a new treatment called Ocrevus last summer. Unfortunately, Shereese wasn’t sure how she could pay for it.

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is a neurological disease which is characterized by damage to the myelin sheath, an fatty, insulating, protective covering that surrounds nerve cells and allows the to communicate effectively. Although a precise cause has not been determined, multiple sclerosis is considered an autoimmune disease, in which a certain trigger, such as an infection, may cause the immune system to mistakenly attack healthy tissue. Smoking and certain genetic variants are also considered risk factors for the disease. Symptoms include blurred vision, double vision, blindness in one eye, numbness, abnormal sensations, pain, muscle weakness, muscle spasms, difficulty speaking and swallowing, mood instability, depression, loss of coordination, and fatigue. There are a number of treatments available for the disease, but no cure. Life expectancy for patients is slightly reduced. To learn more about multiple sclerosis, click here.

The Cost of Care

Shereese’s condition has caused her to become disabled. She also uses Medicare and Medicaid as backup. Unfortunately, even with this assistance, the bill that came back after her first two infusions of Ocrevus was daunting: $3,620. This may not seem like much, but for someone whose income is only about $770 a month, it isn’t easy to have that much money lying around for medical expenses.

MS Doesn’t Come Cheap

Multiple sclerosis drugs, particularly the newest ones, are notorious for their extreme price. The total bill for Shereese was far higher at $123,019. Even with all of the programs that she can use to help cover medical expenses, she still has a bill of several thousand dollars. With her old meds, Shereese didn’t have to worry about paying up. 

Lack of regulations has allowed drug companies to bump up prices across the board in recent years, with few chronically ill patients not feeling the effects of rising prices. Multiple sclerosis drugs are even worse, having risen five to seven times higher compared to prescription drugs generally. 

Thankfully, Shereese was able to avoid the massive bill after reaching out to the hospital, who told her that she qualified for a state program for the disabled. If you are in a similar situation, make sure to research possible programs for financial assistance; many hospitals neglect to tell patients about them.

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