Fibromyalgia is a long-term, widespread pain throughout the body along with fatigue and psychological distress. For this reasons alone, fibromyalgia pain management is critical for every patient to overcome financial costs associated with treatment. The common symptoms of fibromyalgia include pain and tenderness in the all over joints, muscles, and other soft tissues which restrict a person’s functionality and affect their quality of life.
A number of pharmacological options available to cope with symptoms of fibromyalgia (majorly pain) include anti-depressants (amitriptyline, nortriptyline, citalopram, fluoxetine, paroxetine, duloxetine, milnacipran), anti-epileptics (gabapentin, pregabalin) muscle-relaxants (cyclobenzaprine), and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs). Lyrica (pregabalin), Cymbalta (duloxetine) and Savella (milnacipran), are the only drugs approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for fibromyalgia.
Based on the result of various studies, each of these categories of medications work differently in the body to relieve pain. The gabapentin and cyclobenzaprine are usually prescribed for treating nerve pain and muscular pain respectively. Additionally, physicians may prescribe non-narcotic pain relievers (e.g. tramadol) or low doses of lidocaine injections to subside local pain.
The cost of fibromyalgia pain management
As per data available on the National Fibromyalgia Association, out of total fibromyalgia patients, 34% spend $100 to $1,000 per month above their insurance costs to see a physician. A study published by the Health Economics & Outcomes Research (US) and the Mexican Social Security Institute states; highest pain control rate attained by pregabalin (44.8%) and was cost effective in 80% of fibromyalgia patients, followed by gabapentin (38.1%) and duloxetine (34.2%). The costs for the first year of treatment were lowest; around $9,047 for amitriptylinet, followed by costs of fluoxetine, approximately $10,184. The treatment costs for a combination of amitriptyline and fluoxetine were $10,866. The treatment costs for duloxetine were nearly $28,769, which was highest among all. The treatment costs for Tramadol/acetaminophen were approximately $21,943.
10 steps to help patients manage their financial obligations
Below is a list of 10 steps for fibromyalgia patients to manage medical expenses:
1.Make a plan, including a variety of options
Symptoms of fibromyalgia are severe, and a sudden onset could be stressful if you aren’t ready fully to cope with it. But a full-fledged plan to follow gives a sense of control over symptoms, if prepared in advance. Note down all options available for coping, make a list and keep it where you can find it easily. It’s always better to have a variety of options, and make different strategies because some may work for you on one day but not on another.
2.Select a hospital with discounted treatment cost
Treatment costs of some medication e.g. Lyrica, Cymbalta are very high compared to other drugs prescribed for fibromyalgia pain management. Many hospitals and healthcare organizations provide discounted pricing to uninsured fibromyalgia patients. This means for patients without any medical coverage for pain treatment or in some cases when their plan does not cover for an anticipated medication charge, you could be qualified for a discount. Whenever possible, hospitals can discuss financial matters and discounted pricing with patients prior to admission or before discharge from the hospital.
3.Make a list for emergency assistance
A sudden onset of severe fibromyalgia pain and other symptoms need of emergency assistance. Various local agencies, community action agencies, and churches offer emergency assistance in forms of medical consultation, discounted drugs and other services to eligible low-income patients to stabilize an immediate financial crisis.
4.Avail government benefits through medical assistance programs
Government in many states offers a free discount prescription card which allows fibromyalgia patients to get 20% to 40% discount on pain medications. This card is accepted at many retailers and drug stores, e.g. Walmart, Target, Walgreens etc. There are many community action agencies who offer various resources and programs to avail free or heavily discounted pain medications for low/moderate income families. The federal government from many states offers a wide variety of prescription assistance programs through Area Agency on Aging office to provide a free or discounted fibromyalgia prescription drugs to residents. Senior citizens and the disabled can enroll themselves for federal government medical care and insurance which should include receiving prescription drug benefits among other benefits.
5.Check pharmaceutical companies for prescription drug assistance programs
Many pharmaceutical companies offer prescription drug assistance programs to get free or discounted prescription drugs for low income individuals, elders, or those who are uninsured. Pfizer RxPathways patient assistance program provides Lyrica at no cost or at low cost. A patient assistance program from Xubex offers tramadol/acetaminophen at low cost for patients. Cymbalta and Savella offered by Lilly Cares and Actavis patient assistance programs, respectively at no or low cost.
6.Check websites to find out discounted price or free prescription drugs
There are a number of free websites, services and resources have been created that fibromyalgia patients who require assistance with fibromyalgia pain management. You can use these resources to find and compare prices, and ultimately get help to get free or discounted prescription drug medications, or locate affordable health insurance plans. Donations from pharmaceutical companies and foundations usually fund these websites/resources. Try to find out all the websites/resources available and make a list of them for optimal use.
7.Online medical fundraising
If you are finding difficulty in managing medical expenses, and other options are not working for you, then online medical fundraising could be a good choice for you. By following simple steps you can raise funds for the treatment of fibromyalgia, including pain medications, anti-depressants and more. Register yourself on any medical fundraising website, explain about your current situation/disability or inability, and request for donations from loved ones.
8.Non-profit resources for information to manage medical expenses
Non-profit information resources are devoted to helping people in need of assistance of affording their medications and other costs when it comes to health care. If you are suffering from severe symptoms of fibromyalgia, then you should inquire about these resources to manage medical bills. These can guide you regarding patient assistance programs, medical bill mediation, and discounts on prescriptions to cover medical expenses. If you are insured then these resources can mediate to help you to reach them and negotiate the total cost of care with medical bill mediation.
8.Discounted or free medications from non-profits resources
Non-profit resources, such as Together RX, RX Outreach offer prescription medicines for families and individuals at low/discounted cost to uninsured/underinsured, as well as those who have limited prescription drug coverage. Fibromyalgia patients can order pain medications online and can get directly to their home. Patients can save substantially on branded medications e.g. Cymbalta with the help of these resources.
10.Coupons to save money on pain medications
Fibromyalgia patients can save money on expensive drugs with coupons available on websites such as HelpRx, Internet Drug Coupons. These coupons range from $50 or more. Along with coupons, these websites also offer up to 75% off discount on pain medications.
1.Evaluating Prescription Drugs Used to Treat Fibromyalgia: http://www.consumerreports.org/health/resources/pdf/best-buy-drugs/FibromyalgiaDrugs_Final.pdf
2.The FibroCollaborative Roadmap for Change: A Call to Action for Fibromyalgia: http://www.npwh.org/files/public/FibroCollaborative%20Roadmap%20(2).pdf
3.Insurance Barriers to Fibromyalgia Care: https://www.michigan.gov/documents/mdch/insurancebarriers_311278_7.pdf
4.Fibromyalgia: Consensus Recommendations for Family Physicians Part 1: http://www.njafp.org/sites/ethos.njafp.org/files/persepctives_1q_2011.pdf
5.A Few Financial Planning Questions for People with Fibromyalgia: http://www.fmcpaware.org/finances/a-few-financial-planning-questions-for-people-with-fibromyalgia
6.Free or discounted prescription drug programs: http://www.needhelppayingbills.com/html/get_free_prescription_drugs.html
7.A Few Financial Planning Questions for People with Fibromyalgia: http://www.fmcpaware.org/finances/a-few-financial-planning-questions-for-people-with-fibromyalgia
8.Economic Burden: http://www.fmaware.org/economic-burden.html
9.Fibromyalgia and Health Insurance: http://echealthinsurance.com/health101/conditions/fibromyalgia-and-health-insurance/