Saturday, July 25, 2015

Orkambi Troubles

I am not sure how one quantifies the value of a life. Apparently, some people know the secret equation, but I wasn't lucky enough to be one of them. Although, I do not know exactly what my life's value is I do know according to my insurance company my life is not worth $259,000/year. In other words, my insurance is not covering the new drug Orkambi for any of their Cystic Fibrosis sufferers.

I was actually really surprised, naïve as it was, because my insurance gladly covers the $300,000/year Kalydeco for patients with the correct mutation. I thought that if they would pay a higher dollar amount for one groups of CFers they would pay for a less expensive version for another. We all know life isn't fair and insurance companies rarely make sense so I guess thinking my insurance would cover this medication was faulty logic.

The really horrendous part of it is I am not sure I will be eligible for the Vertex patient assistance program for people who have insurance refusing to cover the cost of the drug. This could mean that unless I magically become extraordinary wealthy, an extra $20,000 a month wealthy, I may never have access to this medication.

The only aspect of this whole situation that is giving me hope is that CF doctors in my state are coming together to fight for their patients so that we can all access this medication. The CF community is full of doctors who genuinely care for their patients and for that we are lucky. The only other fiber of hope I have is that potentially my insurance company is negotiating price and may eventually strike a deal with Vertex. The part that is the most frustrating is that I am being left in the dark. The morning after I found out my insurance is refusing to cover Orkambi through another cyster I called my insurance company, my clinic (the CF nurse is on vacation), my pharmacy and vertex. I got zero response and no answers. Now that it is the weekend I have to wait until Monday to hope that someone will answer their phone to provide me with some answers on where we go from here.

Cystic fibrosis patients wake up every morning from the moment they are born until they die ready to fight. It is the only way to ensure we wake up every single day. I am ready to fight my insurance in any way possible, my life is on the line!

Saturday, July 18, 2015


There is a flurry of emotions whirling through my mind. I feel as if I am teeter tottering between every emotion that a human can possible feel throughout each and every day. Why all this emotional instability? The newest Vertex drug, Orkambi, is the culprit of all this emotional confusion.

The two years of utter free falling into a dark abyss from this disease made me wish with every fiber of my being for Orkambi to be approved. Every wish my heart held so dearly revolved around something, anything that could pull me up, even just a little, from this bottomless well. Now that Orakmbi is here I feel such a mix of emotions I feel I may go crazy with uncertainty.

The optimistic side of me is feeling excitement so strongly that I can feel it buzzing in my bones. The optimistic side of me wants to scream and shout and jump up and down that there is something, anything that may help me maintain the last 5 months of stability for the next several years. The optimistic side of me want to believe that this drug will work well for me and I will gain 4% lung function or more! I want to have more energy to chase and swim and bike with my daughter. I want to gain weight easily, and have fewer aches, and have more stability in my day to day life when it comes to health.

And then a voice, just as loud and adamant as my optimistic voice, comes bursting into my mind. The voice is my realistic (pessimistic?) side and it is reminding me that not ALL people experienced increased lung function and there were a few that experienced side effects that required them to stop the medication (mainly elevated liver levels). Some felt nothing and others had symptoms that were troublesome and even a bit scary like extreme shortness of breath.

To add icing to my troublesome cake I feel paralyzed with fear that my insurance, which has been reviewing my case for over a week now, will deny my ability to even try this medication.

So much of life with Cystic Fibrosis is luck. What mutations you have, how the disease presents itself, what bugs you catch and how much havoc they wreak on your body, how well you respond to meds and if you are allergic to them. Here is just another example of luck. I have heard this drug has been a life saving miracle for some people and for others it is a nuisance not worth their time. How I feel about this medication is anyone's guess and sheer luck just as most things with CF. And of course, luck will determine if my insurance will even cover this $259,000 a year medication.

I just hope that this time, lady luck is on my side!