For more than five years, neurologists have been promising an inhalable form of the Parkinson’s gold-standard medication.
No lengthy trials were needed to test the medication itself – the inhaler uses the Levodopa of the Carbidopa/Levodopa combo so many of us already swallow numerous times per day.
The delivery system (a puff like an asthmatic’s remedy) however, needed to pass safety and efficacy trials. Early on, the Michael J. Fox Foundation gave two grants of more than a million dollars to the study. Still, the years ticked on.
The reason so many of us continued to be hopeful about the elusive inhaler was because it would send the medication into the bloodstream without having to go through the stomach and intestines first. Maintaining a steady level in the bloodstream is essential – drop too low and symptoms become severe and difficult to regain control over. Every time we eat, we risk those fluctuations because, for about a two-hour window, protein in the stomach inhibits absorption of the Carbidopa/Levodopa.
Like many of us into our second decade with this disease, I take one of those yellow tablets every 90 minutes. Each meal becomes a choice between losing more weight and muscle mass or biting into that turkey sandwich knowing my next few hours will be spent rigidly stuck in a chair.
The inhaler is here, FDA-approved and being prescribed by neurologists. Yet, it remains elusive.
At $30 per dose (not to exceed 5 doses per day. Ironic, that number 5 again), I can almost sympathize with the insurance companies not stepping up to cover it. One dose per day (let’s see: I’ll eat protein at breakfast only) comes to $10,950 annually.
Opting for – oh, so radical – protein at each meal, the yearly cost is $32,850.
And if you happen to have a high metabolism and need to max out at the 5 doses, budget $54,750 for the next 12 months.
Why the high price tag? By 2020, estimates are at 1 million people with Parkinson’s in the US (there are currently 10 million worldwide). Acorda Therapeutics, the drug manufacturer, laid off 20 percent of its staff last year. With Inbrija hitting the market, Acorda is looking to leap back into the black, banking billions from PD patients who struggle to simply walk. Click here for more on Acorda.
At the grocery store the other day, while my meds were on and I was able to walk down the aisles, I eyed the goat cheese selection, the organic eggs, the salmon fillets and calculated an additional $30 to each, way more than doubling the price of all three combined. I stopped the cart when it occurred to me I’ve already paid in part for this medication. I’ve donated to the Michael J. Fox Foundation — as have a number of generous and supportive friends and family members — for years.
We’ve waited years for this?