Latest News | Jun 22, 2021

People like me are falling through the cracks

My name is Steven Alton, and I’m from Albuquerque, New Mexico. I am 69, a Medicare beneficiary and a veteran who has suffered from severe migraines for the last four years. 

My doctors and I don’t know why my migraines started to happen, but I do know that when a migraine comes on, my life is severely impacted. Migraines impair my eyesight and my balance. I suddenly can’t stand bright light. When they hit, I have to stay in a dark room lying down, sometimes for days. 

There is a medication that provides the relief I need to live my life. The drug is called Ubrevly, and 10 pills are priced as much as $3,000. Imagine that — 10 pills, $3,000. I simply can’t afford it. 

For an entire year, I jumped through hoops in order to get this medicine. I had to drive back and forth to my doctor’s office for free samples to treat my migraines. Eventually, I found out that through my insurance I owed  $216 for 10 pills. As a senior on a fixed income, that is still a massive expense for me. 

I’ve managed to come up with the money, but it isn’t easy. A friend from church paid for my first batch of Ubrelvy because I couldn’t afford it, and my church community paid for my second box. I then used my $1,400 COVID stimulus money to buy a third box. 

People like me are falling through the cracks and suffering all while Big Pharma maximizes profits. High drug prices are killing senior citizens and veterans, and pharma leaders don’t seem to care. That’s why we need immediate action from our lawmakers. Medicare should be negotiating the prices of our prescription drugs.

SANTA FE, N.M. — Albuquerque patient Kristina Caffrey will share her story of relying on a $350,000-a-year prescription medication with the state House Health and Human Services committee today. Caffrey will testify in support of House Bill 154, legislation that would establish a prescription drug affordability board designed to protect New Mexico patients like Caffrey from unaffordable prescription drug prices. 

Caffrey lives with Gaucher disease and relies on the medication Cerdelga, sold by Sanofi Genzyme for $500 a pill. Caffrey’s two-pills-a-day regime runs an annual price tag that equals the price of a house. 

“Genzyme has recouped its investments [on the drug Cerdelga] many times over, but I am still paying the price. They do this because they can — and because no one has ever demanded to know why they’re extorting people like me,” Caffrey, 33, will testify. “The burden of high prescription drug prices is not just monetary. It is also an emotional one. I have made so many decisions out of fear of not being able to obtain or afford medication.”

“This is why New Mexico needs an affordability board, made up of experts who can peel back the curtain of arbitrary pricing that has nothing to do with the costs of production, the costs of development, or the value to patients.”

House Bill 154 would: 

The hearing and Caffrey’s testimony can be viewed live here at 8:30 AM MT today.