My name is Valerie and I’m from Long Beach, CA. I live with rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and bipolar disorder, and I’m advocating for affordable prescription drugs because I know what it’s like to live without.
Though I initially had a hard time finding doctors who believed my pain, I was finally diagnosed with both RA and fibromyalgia in 2018. At the time, I was working at an afterschool program in my local school district, and I had quality health insurance. I was able to build a group of physicians, therapists, and other health care professionals who were willing to advocate for me.
To treat these two illnesses, I was prescribed the medication regimen of methotrexate, gabapentin, and meloxicam. I’d also been taking Effexor and Lamictal for the past five years for bipolar disorder. With insurance, my medications and doctor’s visits used to cost around $100 out-of-pocket each month.
However, in March of this year, I had to stop working indefinitely. Chronic pain prevented me from carrying out all the duties of my job — I couldn’t carry the kids when I needed to or participate in other physically demanding tasks. With the loss of my job, I also lost my health insurance.
Since finishing the last of my supply in May, I haven’t taken any of my medications. I was essentially bedridden during May and part of June because I was constantly dealing with nausea, migraines, and intense fatigue. Usually when I’m experiencing a flare and appropriately medicated, I’m able to distract myself enough to read, garden, or play with my dogs. But this time, I couldn’t focus enough to do much of anything. I didn’t even want to eat or get out of bed — the only thing I could do was cry. I was the most worried about coming off my medications for bipolar disorder because I knew I would be able to live through physical pain, but I didn’t know how I would maintain my mental health without these drugs.
For a long time, I felt really helpless and confused about how I would regain health insurance and whether I would be able to work again. Fortunately, I’ve just been approved for MediCal, so I’m in the middle of figuring out how my new plan will cover my medications.
My intention has always been to return to work and be a contributing member of society while living with these conditions, and my medications allow me to function and work toward that goal. But these past few months have forced me to think about what I would be willing to give up in order to have access to my drugs again. People shouldn’t have to choose between not having their medications or sacrificing other parts of their lives to afford them — and that’s why it’s so important to lower the price of prescription drugs now