September 4, 2020 Blogs

I thought I was prepared.

My name is Tonya Scales and I live in Greensboro, North Carolina. I’m the proud grandmother of five grandkids, the youngest of whom has asthma. I am retired but am helping to raise my grandkids and make sure they get the medicines they need.

Being a single mother with a sick child is stressful. Having raised my own son who had asthma, I thought I was prepared for what was coming when my grandson was diagnosed. The medicine and supplies were so affordable I was able to buy my son’s prescriptions, have a home nebulizer, and buy a portable one that he could bring to school with him. I expected the same for my grandson –– that I would go pick up his medicine, buy a nebulizer for home and for school, and take the necessary precautions to avoid asthma attacks.

The medicine and supplies my grandson needed had not changed since my son was a child. The prices, however, had. I was shocked by how expensive his equipment and especially his medicine was. It was hard to believe it, but my grown son’s asthma drugs years and years ago cost a fraction of what my grandson’s asthma drugs cost today.  The medicine and supplies were so affordable that I was able to buy my son’s prescriptions, have a home nebulizer, and buy a portable one that he could bring to school with him.

My grandson takes Albuterol, which costs us about $60 per month. I’m retired and his mom works as a nurse practitioner. With all of the expenses involved in helping to raise my grandkids, the cost of my grandson’s medications and supplies definitely impacts our budget in a big way. Because of the high price of his medicine, we’re unable to have a second nebulizer for him like we did with my son. We’re forced to rely on home remedies, like a humidifier, to avoid the need for more expensive medicines or treatments that would totally break the bank if his asthma worsened. 

I know the issue of unaffordable prescriptions is a system-wide issue, and not just something asthma patients deal with. My sister has COPD and would spend close to $400 per month out of pocket on her medications if she didn’t qualify for grants that cover that cost. I’m lucky that my Medicare and Medicaid cover my prescriptions, but I worry about what would happen if they dropped the coverage or increased the price.

With so many people in my life touched by the issue of unaffordable drugs, I think a lot about why the system doesn’t work for us. I know drug companies are businesses that work to turn a profit, but I have a question for them: What would they do if someone in their family were in this situation and needed medicine, but couldn’t afford it? Would their priority still be to make that extra dollar or would they realize how important access and affordability of these life-saving drugs are? 

The issue of unaffordable medications doesn’t seem to bother people until it’s at their back door, and it can arrive any time. No one should be forced to make the decision between whether to eat or whether to buy their medicine; whether to pay rent or buy their medicine. To me, the fact that drug companies make decisions every day – without input from those that will be affected – shows that we have a broken system. We need changes now that prioritize patients like my grandson, and the millions of other Americans struggling to afford their medicines every day.


Patients For Affordable Drugs is the only independent national patient organization focused exclusively on achieving policy changes to lower the price of prescription drugs.