My name is Tasha Nelson and I want to talk to you about my amazing son Jack.
Jack is a spirited, funny and imaginative 8 year old. He has a passion for Marshmello, video games, extreme weather and the Titanic. He sings in our local children's choir, is on our neighborhood swim team, and enjoys being a cub scout. He is a little boy who loves music and science. If you ask him what he wants to be when he grows up, hell tell you “a DJ like Marhsmello that is also a doctor who cures cancer”.
My little DJ-Doctor Jack was born and lives with a disease called Cystic Fibrosis. While this is thought of primarily as a lung disease, the truth is it affects nearly every major organ and system of his body. At one month old, Jack received this diagnosis and the first of what would become one of many daily life saving medications. This medication allowed him to digest food, something he had failed to do every day since he was born. The price tag on that medication? I was responsible for $240 per month.
At 3 months old, Jack required another medication vital to his life. His mucous had become so thick in his sinuses that it was the consistency of chewing gum, and he struggled to breathe. His doctor prescribed a new daily medication that would help him breathe.
My baby was struggling to breathe, and we had a solution available but the doctor told me that we would need a prior authorization from our insurance in order to fill the prescription. I called my insurance to ask how long this would take and was told 7-10 days if approved. IF approved. My baby needed to breathe and I was being told it may or not be approved for 7-10 days. AND the price tag on that medication? I was responsible for $1,200 per month.
As Jack ages, his disease requires him to take more and more medicine. New innovations in research and development are resulting in some extraordinary medications that have an even more extraordinary price tag. The median cost of medications for a person living with Cystic Fibrosis in the United States is nearly half a million dollars a year. Depending on your insurance plan, the cost to your family can vary anywhere from several hundred dollars per month to thousands. This is for life-saving medication, and I don’t think my son’s life should have a price tag.
Every single day families like mine sell our things online or in yard sales, or start go-fund-me campaigns in an attempt to afford the medications our babies need. We do everything we can to avoid medical bankruptcy. We do everything we can to get the medication that keeps our kids alive.
What do we need to fix this broken system and change it to promote the well being of our chronically ill, rare disease, and disabled populations? We need formularies to no longer exist. We need prior authorizations to no longer exist. We need innovation, research and development of new medications to continue, but the cost cannot be bankrupting families that are doing everything they can to keep their babies alive. A medication is only life-saving in use if it is accessible to the patient. If I can’t afford it, Jack can’t benefit from it.
Children like Jack need their government to stand up to pharmaceutical manufacturers, pharmacy benefit managers, and insurance companies and say NO MORE. NO MORE will pharmaceutical companies continue to prioritize bloated corporate profits over patient lives. My son Jack, and all of the children like him, deserve better.
These remarks were given on September 25, 2019 at a press conference on Affordable Pharmaceuticals with Speaker Nancy Pelosi.