Help for Patients with Myeloma

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When Kalimah Jenkins, 44, of Atlanta, went to the doctor suffering from excruciating bone pain and fatigue in 2004, she was shocked by the diagnosis: myeloma, a blood cancer that starts in a plasma cell in the marrow and affects the bones, the blood cells and other organs in the body. In fact, the struggle being waged by Jenkins, who is African American, brings to light a little-known fact: myeloma is twice as prevalent among African Americans as it is among Caucasian Americans.

Jenkins had her next shock when she realized how expensive it would be to pay for her treatments. She is currently being treated with a drug called Revlimid®, one of a growing arsenal of new therapies that have greatly improved survival rates for patients with this blood cancer. But the treatments are costly.

Fortunately, Jenkins’ doctors at Emory Winship Cancer Institute informed her about a program offered by The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) to help her pay for the drugs.  LLS Co-Pay Assistance Program (www.lls.org/copay) provides up to $5,000 annually for qualified patients, to help pay for prescription drug co-pays and health insurance premiums.  Patients with private insurance, Medicare beneficiaries under Medicare part B and/or Medicare Part D, Medicare Supplementary Health Insurance or Medicare Advantage are eligible if they meet the income requirements.

In addition to myeloma, there are funds available for patients with other types of blood cancer.

“When they told me about this program, it was right in time because I was paying my insurance out of pocket and I was at the point of not being able to do it any more,” says Jenkins. “This program has helped me tremendously.”

Cislyn Blackwood, 60, of Fresno, CA, has also benefited from the LLS Co-Pay Assistance Program. After being laid off from her job, and with her COBRA benefits running out, Blackwood, who also has myeloma, was desperate. Even with Medicare and supplemental insurance, she couldn’t manage the costs of her treatments. In addition to being on and off treatment with Thalomid®, another effective myeloma drug, Blackwood is taking medication to manage the pain in her bones, and the debilitating side effects of treatment, including neuropathy and exhaustion.

“I reached a point where I couldn’t pay any more and the co-pay program helped me cover my bills,” Blackwood said.  “There are a lot of people who aren’t taking their medication because they can’t afford it and the co-pay program really helps with that.”

“Receiving a diagnosis of a blood cancer is overwhelming and that devastating news can be compounded by an inability to afford the treatments,” said John Walter, LLS’s president and CEO. “LLS is trying to do what it can to help alleviate this burden for patients.”

For more information visit www.lls.or/copay or call (877) LLS-COPAY.

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