It was inevitable.
Sooner or later, I was going to have to come off my aspirin regimen and switch to a drug more target specific as a blood thinner to treat my atrial fibrillation (a-fib).
That change happened this past week. But not without a little adventure.
This all started seven years ago, when I was first diagnosed with a-fib. Apparently, one of the atrium's in my heart goes Boom-biddly-yop-de-whoop instead of a more rhythmic Boom, boom, boom. That's a-fib. Blood can clot in that chamber and then possibly move on the the brain, where it can cause a stroke.
When my cardiologist (yes, I can now say 'my cardiologist'), Dr. Katie Twomley, discovered this, she put me on 325 mg aspirin tablets as my blood thinner. Thin blood apparently lessens the risk of stroke.
But two years ago, when I turned 65, she told me it was time to consider something more precise than aspirin. We let that year pass because I was feeling pretty good. To this day, I don't feel any symptoms of a-fib, whatever they may be. If Twomley didn't let me know I had a-fib, I'd never know that I had a-fib.
Anyway, after last year's annual visit to 'my cardiologist', Twomley was more assertive, insisting that I switch to Eliquis, which I guess is pretty much the Cadillac of blood thinners for people with a-fib.
I was all for it until I found out that Eliquis retails for about $430 per month.
Up until now, my heart meds cost next to nothing. I could refill my metoprolol and lovastatin with a $10 bill and still have enough change to buy a refreshing vanilla-chocolate-strawberry cholesterol cone.
This was different. This was my first real brush with the cost of health care. There's no generic for Eliquis, which still has a year left on its patent before it can be considered for a cost reducing generic. Twomley kept me on aspirin for a little bit longer while we investigated pricing, and just what was going on with my health insurance anyway?
To make a long, boring story shorter (if not less boring), I called the customer service number on the back of my Plan D prescription card. My insurance did indeed knock the price down – to $212.44.
Yikes. There goes dinner.
I asked further questions. It took me two associates on the other end of the line, and 20 minutes into the conversation, before they told me that if/when I met my deductible of $256, my monthly cost for Eliquis would be $40 per month.
Well, geez, why didn't you tell me that 20 minutes ago?
I rushed to my pharmacy, where I gave my pharmacist a heads up about my impending Eliquis prescription, which Twomley had already called in. I'd pick it up tomorrow.
"Oh," he said, "do you have your free coupon?"
So I rushed back to my cardiologist, where an associate did indeed give me a coupon for a month's free trial of Eliquis. I called the activation number, and after about 15 minutes of dial-tone prompts, I was told that I now had a free month's supply.
All the while I'm wondering about the logic of a $430 drug being given away for free. How does that work again?
I'm also wondering about Medicare Plan F, where everything is free after the monthly premium. I think.
I also know my story is basically insignificant. There are other people who rely on life-saving medications that can cost upwards of four figures per month (if not more), making me wonder about the morality of a health care system that is based on for-profit capitalism and not humanity.
Meanwhile, the Eliquis is busy working, I guess, keeping my blood thin. We'll see how that goes. I have a dentist appointment next month, where they poke at my teeth with sharp metal instruments and make my gums bleed.
Could be another blog in there somewhere.