Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A spoonful of sympathy makes the medicine go down. Or so says the Johns Hopkins Health Review.


"Nurses tell us all the time that if the doctor goes in and holds the patient's hand and asks them how they are, the nurse will have fewer complaints from the patient."  Allan Belzberg, clinical director of Neurosurgery Pain Research Institute and associate professor of neurological surgery at Johns Hopkins

I ran across this quote in an article titled, "Pain Pain Go Away", in one of my favorite semi-annual publications - the Johns Hopkins Health Review. This was from last year's spring/summer issue, and I'll be sharing more tidbits from the most recent fall/winter issue over the coming weeks. I'm always blown away at the number of doctors and scientists committed to changing the world of medicine, health and wellness through their studies, research and development.

While the article itself is fascinating, this quote encapsulates what I have found to be true in my dealings with all of my doctors. In particular, while Dr. S., my rheumatologist, isn't literally a hand holder, he demonstrated just this past appointment how much it means to have a doctor who truly listens and cares about their patient.

As many of you have experienced and subsequently commented about on this blog, the price hike of the generic plaquenil medication continues to be a major hassle for those of us taking the medication. I've written about my prescription-filling travails here, and here. And I've always been very open about the issue with my rheumatologist, not only about this recent hike of plaquenil, but also the price of cellcept, as well as lovenox, a daily blood thinner that I had to administer during one of my pregnancies that ran $1000/month out of pocket. I don't mention these high prices to him in an effort to complain, or nag. Nor do I expect that he can magically reduce the cost of a drug, or make badgering phone calls to the drug company. Rather, I mention it in an attempt to keep him in the loop. So that he knows that one of the medicines he's prescribing has suddenly become a financial burden for me to start or continue taking.

Last year, I mentioned the plaquenil price increase to him once, and he said he was aware of the issue. But he kind of just shrugged his shoulders because, as I knew, there was very little to be done about it. Then, several months later, the plaquenil price returned to normal for me. I mentioned it again, just to let him know that the price had fallen, and we laughed about the fact that my little old plaquenil had been more expensive than big honking cellcept.

Fast forward to last month, and I went to fill my plaquenil, and the price hike had hit me again. It was right back up to where it was before, at more than $485 for a three-month supply. (With insurance, it's over $550 at Costco, and over $700 at Rite Aid - go figure!) So of course, I mentioned it to him again, just to keep him in the loop. He was aghast that it was still so high. We spent 10 minutes, looking up different sites, checking the price here and there, and confirming the why's and how's of the price hike.

In the end, he suggested two things - 1) he would write me a new prescription for plaquenil, one that I could shop around to different mail-order and/or local pharmacies to try and get the best deal, without having to transfer my current prescription, and 2) we could reduce my plaquenil from 400mg/day to alternating 400mg/200mg every other day. I was EXTREMELY thankful for the time he spent, the sympathy he showed, and the workarounds he created. While it wasn't an actual hand-holding moment, he'd definitely lent a sympathetic ear. One that made the whole price hike that much easier to swallow. (You knew that was coming.)

As a footnote, I shopped the new prescription around, and found a rock bottom deal at Wal Mart, for just $80/month. For a three-month supply, that makes it $240, which is more than a $245 savings. That is real money. And all thanks to Dr. S!

Note: Please check with your doctor before making any changes to your medication regimen.


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