“I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in April 2012, and in November applied to my medical scheme for a stem cell transplant. They indicated that I first required chemotherapy treatment with a co-payment of about R40,000. After complying, stem cell treatment coverage was approved and I had my first transplant in April 2013.

After the transplant, I had a few years of good health, but in February 2018 I had a relapse. My oncologist immediately prescribed another course of chemotherapy, which the medical aid approved with a co-payment of around R66,000. I was advised that I needed a second bone marrow transplant. We applied to my medical aid but the application was rejected.

My oncologist advised me to start with Revlimid (the registered brand name of Lenalidomide) as a maintenance option until we could find another solution. The medical scheme approved the Revlimid – subject to a co-payment of around R16,000 per month. We could not afford the co-payment so we started looking for other solutions. It became increasingly clear that my medical scheme would not serve me in future, so we cancelled my membership and were advised by some oncology professionals to buy the medicine directly from India. We sent my prescription to the Indian supplier. The cost was about R7000 for the whole 3-month course of Lenalidomide. Unfortunately I could not get Section 21 authorisation from SAHPRA and my medicine was destroyed at Customs.

Luckily there was a positive outcome for me despite all these setbacks. I was approved to undergo my second stem cell transplant at a public sector hospital. I am not sure what I will do if I need Lenalidomide again in future. What I know is that for any ordinary South African to get treatment, you have to go above and beyond. So many people simply don’t get help because of the exorbitant costs.

By God’s Grace I am alive…”

You can read more about Retha’s story here



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