April 23, 2021 Blogs

I have no choice but to buy this medication.

My name is Steven Hadfield. I am 68, a long-time North Carolinian, a husband, a grandfather of three, and a football fanatic. I’m also a rare cancer patient and a diabetic — two conditions that require very, very expensive drugs. 

I’ve been a hard worker all of my life. I work full-time at Walmart and several part-time jobs, including as a suite attendant at Bank of America stadium. I have even had the opportunity to work in a suite at a Super Bowl, which was an incredible experience. I love the work that I do and have always enjoyed keeping busy.

But doctors get after me about how many hours I put in while fighting cancer as a person with diabetes. It’s extra dangerous during the pandemic. But my drug prices are so high that if I retire, I won’t be able to afford what I need to stay alive. 

My rare blood cancer is treated with a drug called Imbruvica. The list price for Imbruvica is $13,925 every 28 days. Just this January, the drug maker raised the price by $960 a MONTH. There isn’t a generic option for Imbruvica, so I have no choice but to buy this medication. So many people need the drug to stay alive. It’s one of the top-selling drugs in the world with billions of dollars in sales.

I also take Lantus to treat my diabetes — it costs me $400 per month and its drug maker makes $15 million a day selling it. 

Drug company executives try to scare patients like me by saying the prices of my medications must remain high so drug companies can develop the innovative drugs of the future. But that’s simply not true. My Lantus has gone up in price by 735 percent over the last 20 years, but the medication hasn’t changed one bit. 

And while the manufacturer of Imbruvica, AbbVie, has taken out dozens of patents on the drug, more than 50 percent of them have been “secondary,” meaning they didn’t truly improve the primary purpose of the medication: To keep my cancer at bay. Instead AbbVie has used these patents to prevent a generic medication from coming to market for an additional nine years. In those nine years, patients like me across America are expected to spend $41 billion on Imbruvica. With sales that high and exclusivity for that long, there is plenty of room for both lower drug prices and future innovation. 

Innovation is very important to me — I need new and better medications and even potential cures to come to market to treat my cancer and my diabetes so that I can keep doing the things I love. But new drugs won’t matter if I can’t afford them. I want to see more football games, I want to spend more time with my grandchildren, and I want to continue to live the life that I love with my wife. 

Pharmaceutical companies cannot keep making these outrageous profits while people like me struggle to afford to stay alive. It is time for change.


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