May 15th, 2009
04:20 PM ET
There’s no denying that prescription drug costs are in the stratosphere. Combine that with an economy that is in the cellar, and it is no surprise that a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found almost 30 percent of adults say they’ve opted not to fill a prescription because of cost. About a quarter of people polled had split pills or skipped doses to make their medicine last longer.
Here are the resources Gerri Willis and Dr. Sanjay Gupta talked about on “House Call” this weekend. Thanks for watching.
Kmart pharmacies www.kmart.com
Sam’s Club www.samsclub.com
BJ’s Pharmacies www.bjs.com
One word of caution here, beware of fly-by-night sites, where your risk of getting counterfeit or tainted drugs rises. Look for sites that carry the "VIPPS" seal (it stands for verified internet pharmacy practice site, and is awarded by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy).
Also, consider getting a drug discount card. They are available from state government, membership associations, non-profit organizations or for-profit businesses. You may be able to save from 15 to 50 percent on certain medicines. The cards may have annual fees that range from $30 to $60 per family or up to $9 dollars a month.
Pharmacy assistance programs can also help. They are generally run by drug companies. Keep in mind there may be income requirements.
For more information of Pfizer’s program, called Pfizer Pfriends, call 1-866-776-3700.
And finally, read the Empowered Patient for more tips on how to save big bucks at the pharmacy counter.
May 15th, 2009
10:14 AM ET
By Beth Karas
A week after the 9/11 attacks, I was reporting from ground zero for Court TV, now In Session, when I received a call from my father that my older brother, Joseph, had taken a turn for the worse. Joe had had many brushes with death but this would be his final one. The next day, I was at his hospital bedside in Massachusetts when he passed away. I spent another hour with him after he died, saying goodbye, and contemplating his life and that of my younger brother, Jonathan, who passed away eight years earlier. While they are in my thoughts daily, today is special because it’s International MPS Awareness Day.
Beth's brother Joe used a wheelchair in the last years of his life.
My brothers suffered from a rare metabolic disorder called mucolipidosis type III (or ML-III), which they unknowingly inherited from both my parents. ML-III is linked to other disorders called mucopolysaccharidoses (or MPS) which are characterized by a missing or defective enzyme needed to break down and recycle materials in the cells. The body stores these materials, causing the cells not to perform properly. The progressive damage wreaks havoc throughout the body.
Through the years, my mother would tell me that the first time she held Joe in the hospital, she knew something “wasn’t right.” As for Jonathan, his birth was so complicated that he and my mother were hospitalized for several days—my mother recalling time and again her near-death experience. Little did we know what lay ahead. It would be decades before the diagnosis of ML-III would be made, but not for lack of effort on the part of my brothers’ physicians.
Early signs of Joe’s ML-III were his late development in walking and the stiffening of the joints in his hands by the time he was 5. His unbearable headaches at 6 led my parents to specialists two hours from home—at Boston’s Children’s Hospital. Joe’s craniotomy began his, and ultimately Jonathan’s, journey in and out of hospitals for the rest of their lives as doctors struggled to reconstruct joints, alleviate pain, create more mobility and generally improve their diminishing quality of life.
Doctors were mystified about my brothers’ disorder. My mother used to tell me that they came from around the world to examine Joe and Jon in those early years and that my brothers were among the earliest reported cases. As my parents, sister and I watched their disease progress, we knew that some day they would no longer walk without aid. Indeed, by the end of their lives, they both used wheelchairs.
Characteristics of MPS and ML vary depending upon how severely one is afflicted. It can cause mental retardation, hearing loss, diminished eyesight, and damage to the heart and respiratory system. One of the most common characteristics is skeletal, such as short stature and stiff joints. My older brother used to tell me that one of his goals in life was to know what it felt like to have his palm on a table. His stiffened and curled fingers prevented it. Both brothers had their hips replaced while in their 20s and lived with chronic pain from every joint in their bodies.
There is no cure for ML or MPS though there are treatments today for some of the MPS disorders. Those treatments can be prohibitively expensive but they improve the quality of life and extend the life expectancy of those lucky enough to receive them. It is the mission of the National MPS Society, of which I am an active member, that there will be a cure someday for these horrible diseases. Until then, we seek to raise awareness of these devastating diseases and offer hope and support to affected individuals and their families.
For more information, visit www.mpssociety.org .
“In Session’s” Beth Karas is a journalist and former Manhattan assistant district attorney who has covered some of the country’s highest-profile trials over the last 15 years.
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