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North TX Teacher Dies from Flu; High Cost of Flu Meds in the Spotlight

February 11, 2018

On Monday, February 05, 2018, the Weatherford Democrat (Texas) reported that second grade teacher, Heather Holland, died from the flu.

heather-holland  Heather Holland

The copay for her flu medication was $116– a price tag that merits a double-take. Due to the price, Holland decided not to buy the medicine. When her husband learned of her decision, he purchased the meds. The article does not disclose the amount of time that passed between Holland’s finally taking the medication and her death, as the Weatherford Democrat details:

Holland fell ill about a week ago and planned to pick up flu medication but felt the $116 copay was too high, her husband said.

Frank Holland bought the prescription himself when he found out, but things worsened.

“Friday night, things escalated and she ended up in the ICU,” Holland said. “The doctors got the blood cultures back and they had to put her on dialysis early Saturday.”

Heather Holland died Sunday morning.

According to the February 05, 2018, Dallas News, Holland had been sick for a few days before visiting the doctor on Wednesday, January 31, 2018. The medication she began taking TamiFlu, which, according to a 2013 Consumer Reports article, costs “at least $100” for a 5-day course of treatment.

tamiflu

TamiFlu (oseltamivir) also comes in a generic.

The website, GoodRx, offers “free coupons” for the generic, oseltamivir. With the coupon, the cheapest possible cost appears to be $52.

Based upon the GoodRx estimated cost of the generic ($108 to $163), which is likely lower than the cost of the TamiFlu brand, and considering the health insurance packages offered to employees at Weatherford Independent School District (ISD), and given that Holland became ill at the beginning of a new year, it is likely that the $116 copay actually represented the full cost of TamiFlu that Holland was reluctant to purchase.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), once a person has the flu, the difference in taking TamiFlu (“antiviral drugs”) by days appears to matter:

What are the benefits of antiviral drugs?

When treatment is started within two days of becoming sick with flu symptoms, antiviral drugs can lessen symptoms and shorten the time you are sick by about one day. They may reduce the risk of complications such as ear infections in children, and pneumonia and hospitalizations in adults.  For people at high risk of serious flu complications, early treatment with an antiviral drug can mean the difference between having milder illness instead of more severe illness that might require a hospital stay.  For adults hospitalized with flu illness, early antiviral treatment can reduce their risk of death.

Regarding combating the flu, the CDC suggests immunization as a first line of defense:

Should I still get a flu vaccine?

Yes. Antiviral drugs are not a substitute for getting a flu vaccine. While flu vaccine can vary in how well it works, a flu vaccine is the first and best way to prevent seasonal flu. Antiviral drugs are a second line of defense to treat the flu (including seasonal flu and variant flu viruses) if you get sick.

I am indeed sorry to know of Heather Holland’s death (from septic shock, her husband notes). Her husband and two children are in my prayers, and I hope that the information in this post might help others battling the flu this season.

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I wrote a few books. Here’s one on the history of charter schools and vouchers:

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

And here are two more: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. Swell stuff.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

2 Comments
  1. Reblogged this on David R. Taylor-Thoughts on Education and commented:
    WOW..The health insurance for Texas Educators is terrible.

  2. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    You have certainly done a great service with this analysis. The co-pay does seem to be the full price. This is a tragedy and reflection of the need for far better health care. This flu season is on track for being the worst in a long time.

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