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Anne Soloviev has a heightened risk for skin cancer, so she is diligent about seeing her dermatologist twice a year. During her most recent visit in January, a nurse noted some discoloration on the 77-year-old’s toenails.
Tests on a few clippings confirmed she had a toenail fungus. Soloviev was given a prescription to be filled by a specialty pharmacy, which would mail the topical medication to her home.
The fungus wasn’t bothering her. But Soloviev figured she’d better take care of it.
“I did not ask how much it cost – it never crossed my mind, ever,” Soloviev, told a reporter from National Public Radio and Kaiser Health News.
One reason she didn’t give cost a second thought was because Soloviev has good insurance. She’s covered by Medicare, Parts A and B, and has supplemental insurance through her late husband’s benefit. She also had a health savings account, where she’d stashed $1,500 pretax dollars to pay for uncovered medical expenses.
She received the toenail medication, Kerydin, by overnight mail and an automatic refill arrived a few weeks later. She began swabbing it on two toenails, aware that it could take about 11 months to treat the fungus.
She wasn’t aware that the drug company, Anacor Pharmaceuticals, had submitted paperwork to the Food and Drug Administration indicating that a yearlong treatment of Kerydin had completely cured toe fungus in only 6.5 percent of patients in one trial and 9.1 patients in another.
Soloviev also was not aware that Kerydin cost nearly $1,496.09 per monthly dose.
And she didn’t know that the first prescription had already wiped out her entire health savings account.
As soon as she found out she told the pharmacy not to renew her prescription.
Experts contacted by the reporter said there are lots of treatments available for toenail fungus, including over-the-counter drugs.
It’s a physician’s duty to alert a patient when they prescribe a high-priced drug, experts agreed. And, often, it’s left to the patient to ask.
“I just find it is outrageous for a fungal medicine to cost $1,400, to be prescribed for 11 months, and for neither the PA nor the pharmacy to warn you,” Soloviev said.
Have you had a similar surprise at the pharmacy counter? Share your story and solutions with Voices for Affordable Health.