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MS medications: Improve access

A call is being made for a change to improve access to medications to treat multiple sclerosis.

American National MS Society president and CEO Cyndi Zagieboylo said: “It is time for change. People with chronic illnesses need to have confidence that they’ll be able to get the life-changing medication they need.”

The Society’s latest initiative aims to make the availability of MS medications affordable, simple and transparent and spotlights Abigail Bostwick, 36, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2013.

She says she never thought it would hit her as hard as it has — not physically — but financially but added: “Our savings quickly drained. We’ve sold a lot of our things. We live paycheck to paycheck.”

accessLike many people living with MS, Bostwick has struggled to afford her MS medications and navigate the complicated system of prescription medication insurance coverage, says the society.

In a report on its website, it continues:

People with MS report high and rapidly escalating medication prices, increasing out-of-pocket costs, confusing and inconsistent formularies (lists of medications covered by an insurance plan), and complex approval processes that stand in the way of getting the treatments they need.  These challenges can cause delays in starting a medication or changing medications when a treatment is no longer working.

Delays may result in new MS activity (risking disease progression without recovery) and cause even more stress and anxiety about the future for people already living with the complex challenges and unpredictability of MS.

In 2004, the average annual cost for MS medications was $16,000; today it is $78,000 — that’s an increase of nearly 400 percent!

The society’s “Make MS Medications Accessible” initiative is calling on leadership from everyone involved — pharmaceutical companies, insurance providers, pharmacy benefit managers, specialty pharmacies, healthcare providers, policy makers, people with MS and others — to work together to focus on getting people with MS the medications they need to live their best lives.

“Medications can only change lives if people can access them. Medications — and the process for getting them — must be affordable, simple and transparent. No single stakeholder has all the solutions; we can only find the solutions together,” said Zagieboylo.

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ian profile50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who is Managing Editor (columns division) of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease-specific news and information websites – including MS News Today. Ian has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

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