Melissa Ozard’s 21-year-old son, Tristin, has Crohn’s disease — a disease that causes inflammation of the digestive tract and can lead to severe symptoms that can require hospitalization.
Tristin was diagnosed with the disease when he was eight years old.
After trying several medications that did not work for him and being in and out of the hospital, he was able to settle for one called Remicade.
Remicade costs about $8,000 per dose. For Tristin, it has brought him into remission.
The medication — which is made from living cell organisms — must be taken intravenously and takes about four hours to infuse. Tristin needs a dose of the medication every four weeks.
“He’s failed on every other drug before that, nothing else has worked,” said Melissa. “It used to be a last line of defense drug and on top of that, he needs more of it than the average person for it to work.”
She noted her son used to go to a clinic in Vancouver to receive the medication at a pediatric facility. At the time, the cost of the drug was completely covered.
Now that he has aged out of the pediatric system, he receives treatment on the Island, but the cost is no longer covered.
Ozard said PharmaCare originally offered to pay for half of his doses, leaving the family with a bill of about $4,000 a month to keep him on it.
However, PharmaCare has retracted their offer and as of August, said nothing would be covered, according to Melissa.
“They said his dose is too high … because he requires it every four weeks they won’t cover it at all,” she noted. “They found a loophole.”
Melissa and her husband put every dollar they have into Tristin’s medication and have even asked family and friends for help through a GoFundMe page.
“The issue for us is every month going to family members and saying ‘can you help us?’” she said. “It’s humiliating and horrific and we’re putting them in a horrible position.”
But they do what they need to for their son, who is enrolled in college courses and would not be able to afford the medication on his own.
On top of his Crohn’s diagnosis, Melissa said Tristin deals with mental illness and is receiving disability support from the province.
There is an option to get some coverage through a patient assistance program but she said her son would have to surrender all of his medical records to a pharmaceutical company and receive his medication at a private site instead of a hospital.
Tristin sees many doctors due to his mental illness and because of that, is not comfortable giving his medical records out.
The private sites, Melissa said, have also been known to not keep the medication he takes at the appropriate temperature necessary.
“It’s too high a price to pay for some people,” she said. “He doesn’t want to use them, it scares him.”
However, if he goes off the medication, he would be hospitalized within weeks.
Melissa’s not sure what the solution is, but that she hopes more people learn about the cost of prescription drugs and consider how it may affect other people.
“He wants to do something with his life … This is an important issue.”