MINNEAPOLIS – More than a thousand blood cancer patients in Minnesota recently received a letter that could change their lives.
A program that helped them pay for expensive cancer medications is out of cash.
The co-pay program for Myeloma patients was funded though the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Bobbie Anderson of Minneapolis was reliant on it to cover the cost of her chemotherapy medicine, Revmilid. It’s just one of a cocktail of medications Bobbie takes that keeps her alive. But it is expensive. Bobbie says Revmilid costs $11,000 per month, leaving her with a $650 monthly co-pay.
For three years she has received assistance through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to cover the co-pay.
“LLS has been a lifesaver,” she said.
But that changed with a letter sent earlier this month, informing her the program was out of money.
“We regret to inform you that the LLS Myeloma co-pay fund has been forced to close effective immediately,” the letter read.
The fund ran out of money earlier than anticipated because of an onslaught of new patients applying, says Dr. Gwen Nichols of LLS.
“We planned for a certain amount and were still going through accepting applications when we realized that the amount of money we had for the first six months was going to be used up much more rapidly than we anticipated,” she explained.
The money LLS uses for the medication co-pay program comes almost exclusively from the drug companies themselves.
The fund gave out more than $40 million, but it wasn’t enough to meet demand.
Bobbie doesn’t have enough money to order more medication, so she may have to do without - a bitter pill to swallow.
“When you take drugs away from a myeloma patient, that’s taking time off their life span,” she said. “My life just got shorter.”
She’s trying to find a new source of help, but without much success.
“All the other nonprofits that provide funding have shut down and there’s nothing out there anymore,” she said.
She’s frustrated at the lack of notice from LLS and at the price of prescriptions that puts the lifesaving medications out of reach.
“This isn’t right. Nobody can say this is right.”
The Leukemia and Lymphona Society says when they get more donations from the drug companies, they’ll be able to start paying co-pays again. That probably won’t be until the end of the year.
They also plan to make changes to the program. In the future, they won’t accept more patients than they have money to fund.
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