Infusion Time: More Than Needles
I’ve mentioned previously that my wife, Lisa, takes Rituxan for her RA. Last month Lisa received the first part of her bi-annual Rituxan infusion. Today, I’ll share a little about our experience with the infusion process from my perspective.
Scheduling the appointments
After making minor adjustments over the years, Lisa and her rheumatologist have settled on six month intervals between each infusion round. As the time for the next round approached, Lisa scheduled a check-up appointment with her rheumatologist. Sometimes I go with Lisa to these appointments, but more often she takes herself when things are going well.
After confirming that Lisa had no significant changes in her health status, she began to target potential dates – in late May and early June – to receive her two-dose infusions. Spring is a busy time of year for Lisa and this year was no different, so settling on the dates was a little tricky, but Lisa managed to schedule infusions around an out-of-town vacation, a panel presentation and interview at a big conference, and conference calls which ultimately took place directly from the comfort of her infusion chair.
Ensuring eligibility for financial assistance
But first – one important due diligence step still remained before Lisa completely finalized the treatment dates. As Lisa and I learned the hard way last year, it is necessary to make sure that you are enrolled and still qualify for financial assistance from the pharmaceutical manufacturer. After last year’s debacle, she and I periodically reviewed the steps necessary to keep her qualified and we were thus pretty certain she was still in good standing. Lisa contacted the manufacturer in late April to confirm that her account was all set. A phone call to the pharmaceutical company verified that that her assistance would be in order. Financial worries were alleviated.
With the preliminary work out of the way, it became only a matter of showing up for the actual treatment. We are fortunate to have an infusion center about 20 minutes away from our house. While the clinic is nearby, I’ve seen how the medicine can make Lisa drowsy, so I will drive her to and from the clinic. I don’t want her on the roads alone. As many readers know, Rituxan infusions can be rather lengthy; in Lisa’s case about 6-8 hours with the slow drip to avoid reactions and variable time it takes to get an IV started.
We schedule early appointments and are out the door by 7:00 AM each day. Lisa calls after about 6 hours to let me know she’s almost done which gives me enough lead time to wrap up work at home and arrive at the clinic just before she finishes to pick her up. I enjoy getting to interact with the infusion nurses and see that Lisa is in good hands. Starting the treatment early works well for Lisa, as she is able to spend the afternoon resting up afterwards and still conduct music lessons in the evening.
With several years of experience under our belts, Lisa’s bi-annual infusion process works quite smoothly for both of us. We realize that we are very fortunate to have such a positive experience for a variety of reasons. Lisa has responded well to the medication; she has great insurance coverage and receives excellent financial assistance from the manufacturer of her medication; we do not have to travel far to access treatment; and she receives a high quality of care from her rheumatologist and the professional staff at the infusion center.
My wish is that all patient experiences could be equally positive, but I know this is not always true. So, in closing, I am curious to learn about the experiences of others. Readers, what have been your experiences with accessing your RA treatment?