BY YOLANDA BRUNSON-SARRABO Sometimes patients can feel like cancer opens the doors for pharmaceutical industries to not only treat these diseases and help extend life, but make a lot of money in doing so. We're thrilled with advances in treating the very complex cancer, multiple myeloma. Today, the likelihood of living a longer life with this disease is much more hopeful than it was some 10 years ago. The new array of drugs that have surfaced to battle myeloma have brought hope to a lot of people. With myeloma doctors now using the word "cure," there seems to be a brighter light at the end of the tunnel in surviving this disease and makes the diagnosis less hopeless. For the many fortunate patients who are living longer in remission, lets just say things dont seem so bleak with these new breakthroughs. But with blessings comes other concerns. Can we afford to stay alive? Im sure many feel the question is absurd. Of course many will jump at the chance with these new trials and drugs now available and those still in the works, but the cost . The cost can be a deal breaker for many who may not have insurance to cover treatment. Because myeloma is so complicated and changes over time, there is no one single drug that is used for treatment. Patients are likely to be taking a proteasome inhibitor, an immunomodulator, a steroid and an immunotherapy - each with its own cost. Triplet therapies are today's norm and quad therapies are becoming the "new normal." Add in indefinite maintenance therapy and this may be why treatment for multiple myeloma beats some of the top leaders in chronic illnesses. Breast Cancer- The average cost for treatment can range from $10,000 - $100,000, with average cost per treatment regimen of $7,000 40,000 *Source- Cost Helper Health Lung Cancer The average cost for treatment can range from $10,631 - $13,404, with the average cost per treatment or clinical staging regimen of $10,000 - $13,000 *Source- National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health Multiple Myeloma The average cost for treatment can range from $10,000-$200,000, with the average cost per treatment or specific treatments ranging: Radiation treatment regimen of $10,000 -$50,000 and stem cell treatment regimen of $20,000 60,000 *Source- Cost Helper Health What do we do? With the latest talks to do away with Obamacare/ Affordable Care Act, and revisions to Medicaid, how can one cope with a disease such as this? Do you opt out of treatment? There are those with private insurance and those without. Those who have private insurance may not fret too much about costs, but what happens if you lose your job or if youre on someone elses coverage and it stops? Then we have those who have coverage through the Medicaid or Medicare. Unfortunately, sometimes we have to fight a bit in both cases to get clearance on some needed tests (like PET-CT, MRIs, bone marrow biopsies and labs) and procedures that may or may not be covered. What's myeloma patient to do when we hit these roadblocks? Here are some suggestions for my fellow myeloma friends: Private Insurance
- Contact you insurance company and speak with a representative for clarity. Clarity consists of anything question you might have: from "Is my specialist part of network?" to that weekly Velcade injection.
- Facilities will typically have financial counselors. Make sure you talk with this key person.
- Contact your myeloma social worker if you hit any speedbumps. They are usually good in providing leads, representing you, or resolving matters with billing.
- Contact your Medicaid/ Medicare rep to see what goes into approving the level of treatment and cost needed. If they advise limitations, take that bit of information and contact your Social Worker.
- Contact you myeloma social worker if you hit any speedbumps. They are usually good in providing leads or representing you or resolving matters with billing.
It would be great to only worry about getting better rather worrying about having enough money to do so, but this is today's reality. As long as youre mindful and abreast of your treatment, insurance, and that all areas are covered without hiccups can you truly feel comfortable in not worrying. Can we afford to have this disease? No, but were stuck with pushing through and advocating for ourselves. It's worth the extra effort to get the upmost quality care, which is whats truly important.
about the author
Myeloma survivor, patient advocate, wife, mom of 6. Believer that patients can help accelerate a cure by weighing in and participating in clinical research. Founder of HealthTree Foundation (formerly Myeloma Crowd).