AN Enniskeane woman is down to her last box of pain-blocking patches and fears returning to a life of ‘living hell’ when they run out.
Niamh Kelly (46) is one of 25,000 people nationwide whose quality of life has been affected after Versatis patches were controversially removed from the Drugs Payment Scheme last December.
It means instead of costing Niamh €2, a month’s supply will now set her back €130 which she says she can’t always afford.
Mum-of-two Niamh has suffered from a degenerative spinal condition since 2012 which sees her struggle with excruciating pain every day. ‘It started as sciatica pain after a bout of flu and never went away. It was later diagnosed as a slippage of the spine,’ she said.
A former maintenance technician at a manufacturing plant, Niamh is unable to work. Lots of days she’s unable to drive and she finds it difficult to sleep with the unrelenting pain. ‘I can’t sit or lie for long, but if I keep moving, my leg goes numb and dead – it’s a fine balance. Some days then I can’t move at all. Neurological pain impacts on all areas of life. You can’t function without sleep and then there’s the pain on top of that. ’
After two years of trying ‘every type of medication’, some of which had negative side effects, her pain management consultant at the Mercy recommended Versatis, in tandem with other drugs. ‘It was life-changing – it worked and I slept,’ remembers Niamh. Initially Niamh paid for her patches and a box of 30 would last her two months.
‘I got a medical card last year and got one box with that. When I saw my pain consultant in January, he gave me another prescription but when I went to the chemist I found Versatis was no longer available on the Drugs Payment Scheme,’ she said.
Niamh has now appealed her case to the HSE through her GP as she isn’t currently possible for her to afford them.
Even though she’s currently suffering a flare-up, she’s using her patches sparingly. ‘My quality of life is very limited as the pain can literally take your breath away. I was a career woman working in a specialised area, but all I can do now is take things day by day.’
A HSE spokesperson said that ‘this change was introduced due to the drug being inappropriately prescribed by condition and duration’ and that Versatis use in this country was ‘out of line.’