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  • Robison Wells

Saphris: the US Healthcare System in Microcosm


I have a handful of mental illnesses, including common ones like depression and anxiety, but also uncommon ones like schizophrenia and OCD. I’ve had them for about the last nine years. And, while this used to be disastrous, since about February it's been pretty much okay. And that's because I was put on a new drug called Saphris.


Saphris is an atypical antipsychotic that was approved by the FDA in 2009, so it's relatively new, and it doesn't have any generics available. It's extremely effective. I haven't felt so healthy in years. Literally, like six or seven years. It's helped not only with my psychosis but also my anxiety and my depression, and, most importantly (to me, at least) my will to do anything. Before taking it, I would put my head down on my desk at the beginning of every day and just wish I was dead, or asleep, or someone else, or any number of other things. I had no motivation to work or to play or write or to paint. I just had no will to do anything. Saphris turned that all around.


It is not hyperbole to say that Saphris saved my life. It may not have saved me from killing myself (I’m on lithium for that) but it saved all of the good parts of life. It renewed my life. It revolutionized my life.


And, because of insurance, I have been getting Saphris since February for $4 a month. Insurance is good.


Unfortunately, my insurance ran out on August 31st, leaving me insuranceless and suddenly very vulnerable. And I learned, just this week, that the price of my Saphris, this miracle drug that has been saving my life for the last eight months, is $1285 a month (WITH a coupon). Now, I may be successful in a lot of ways, but financially is not one of them. $1285 is a ridiculous amount of money. It’s more than my rent payment. It’s more than our monthly food budget. It’s just plain ridiculous.


Is it worth it to me to pay $1285 to have my life back and have motivation and clear-headedness and lack of psychosis. Absolutely. Can I come anywhere close to affording $1285 a month? Not a chance.


Which leaves me with a problem. What am I supposed to do now? Well, the obvious choice is to get insurance again. I’m working on that, through several avenues. But time will tell how they pan out. (For those curious, Medicaid, the ACA, and Disability are all being considered, and so far all have been problematic.)


My problem with Saphris is like so many problems with the American healthcare system. It’s really great technologically, and does some miraculous, innovative stuff, but it is so costly that many of the people who need it most can’t access it. For people like me, who are self-employed, the healthcare system is so completely broken as to be unusable. And, for people like me who have little-to-no disposable income, a sudden monthly bill for $1285 is devastating.


I need to figure out a way to fix my situation, and I’ve been blessed to have very good, kind, wonderful people offer to help. But we have got to find a way to fix healthcare, because it, like me, is nuts.

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