BOSTON (CBS) – Jodie Haimila has been battling multiple sclerosis since she was 16. She tells the I-Team when she was in high school she couldn’t even brush her own teeth. Over the last few years she was getting some relief from the relapsing disease with a drug called Lemtrada.
Jodie says, “I was good for about a year and a half and then all of a sudden it started up again.” Jodie says she began relapsing since the drugs don’t cure MS, they only lessen the frequency of what doctors call flare ups of the illness.
The married mom says her new flare ups are painful and make it hard for her to walk. Jodie describes it this way, “I get this thing called the MS hug. It feels like someone is putting a rope around your torso and tightening it, and it hurts.”
In 2015 and 2016 Jodie had the recommended two rounds of Lemtrada. She says the infusions helped until recently when she began having symptoms, Jodie says her doctor wanted her to have another round of three treatments but she was told by her insurance that she had a co-payment of $5,044.19 to receive the drug and thousands more to have it infused at the hospital.
That was money her family did not have. Jodie says she called the drug company for help but was told she didn’t qualify for their program. Jodie says, “they told me because I’m on Medicare I’m not eligible for assistance.”
Desperate to get the drug, Jodie reached out to the I-Team, telling WBZ without the treatment she would continue to go downhill.
So the I-Team contacted Genzyme the Cambridge manufacture of Lemtrada and explained Jodie’s situation. We were told she did in fact qualify for their patient assistance program. A representative of the company called Jodie telling her, “you get the drug for free and we’ll pay to have it infused because I don’t have any insurance to pay for that.”
Grateful, Jodie says she was surprised and relieved to know she would not have to pay anything out of pocket for the medication.
Jodie has already begun her treatments and is doing well. Most drug manufacturers do have patient assistance programs to help pay for these expensive treatments-but, you have to be persistent to get them.