I complain so much about the side effects of the anticonvulsants that I’ve been prescribed—the infamous Topamax, not Lamictal, which I also take but tolerate very well—that I forget how lucky I am to be able to afford these meds in the first place. When I go to the pharmacy to pick up a monthly supply of each drug, my copay is exactly six dollars. Six dollars. That’s pretty ridiculous if you consider how much they’d be without insurance.
In fact, my husband and I recently calculated the amount we’d pay out of pocket for all of my prescriptions (including, but not limited to, seizure medications) if we didn’t have extended medical coverage. Ready for this? The grand total = approximately $20,000 a year and that’s in Canada, where prescription medications cost less than they do in the US. $20,000 for drugs without which I wouldn’t be a functioning member of society. One could argue that I’m still not a contributing member of society but whatever … that’s a separate issue.
I’m completely aware that it would be very, very difficult to carry the financial burden of living with epilepsy if it weren’t for the Canadian health care system; it’s kind of unbelievable that I can leave the hospital after a weeklong stay with excellent care having not spent a penny, and though my husband is American and we’ve toyed on and off with the idea of moving to the States one day, we’d need exceptional medical insurance for that to be a real possibility. The price of medication itself, while something that I don’t think about as frequently, is a whole other factor. (I am, of course, cognizant of our extreme privilege as compared to those who are either crippled by medical expenses or go without because they can’t afford treatments that would transform their lives for the better.)
I’m tempted to use some of the money we’ve saved to buy a pile of Murakami novels and a tub of high-quality ice cream, but I guess the more responsible thing would be to figure out how to make little changes that might lead to bigger ones in terms of general access to care and to start putting aside cash in case we’re in a less fortunate position one day. Maybe just a magazine and a Fudgsicle.