Teboho Shai, diagnosed with multiple myeloma

I was diagnosed with stage 3 B Multiple Myeloma at age 57 in April 2016 and consequently became paralysed. At the time I was living in Pretoria self employed as a consultant. I am married to Veliswa and I’m a proud father of 6 children.

I received treatment at Mediclinic Hospital and was prescribed thalidomide from 2016 to 2017 which my medical scheme, Medihelp funded fully. In October 2017 I had an Autologous Stem Cell Transplant at the Little Company of Mary Hospital in Pretoria .

However, in August 2018 my cancer cell counts dramatically increased. My haematologist prescribed Revlimid the approved originator medicine. My medical scheme approved the treatment; however, a 20% co-payment is required which is unaffordable for me with a family to take care of and maintain my medical aid benefits for my whole family.

My income is dependent on possible SME contracts when available or awarded. At this time there is no work and I rely on family assistance to fund both medical fees and the generic treatment. We only have my income to live from as my wife is a mother.

I have tried to access cheaper lenalidomide options from India with my own limited funds – I cannot claim that from my medical aid. The South African patent law is restricting affordable access to lenalidomide for me and many others like me who need this access.

Why must we pay such high prices for medicines if there are cheaper options available, but why?