After seeing a news story on TV, I asked my GP about Letrozole FBM. She had never heard of it. When she looked up brands of letrozole on her computer, the FBM brand was not listed as an option.
I rang the chemist where I get my Sandoz brand of letrozole each month for $28. They hadn’t heard of For Benefit Medicines. After a bit of back and forth, they discovered yes, it was available, but I would have to order it in, so I did.
I picked it up a few days later, and it wasn’t till I got home that I saw I had been charged $38.80, a difference of more than $10.
I rang FBM and spoke to John, one of the directors. He is an amazing person who is ‘retired’ and taking on the big pharmacy suppliers for purely humanitarian reasons … talk about the next Australian of the Year!
I learnt that chemists can only charge a maximum amount ($38.80) for most items on the PBS, but they are allowed to discount. So when a big chain buys lots of drugs from a company, they can afford to discount those quite dramatically. The same might not happen for smaller suppliers (like FBM).
Armed with my new knowledge, I rang back my chemist and said I was shocked at the price difference between the two products. They said the higher price was because it wasn’t a product on their ‘list’, and they had to go to a lot of trouble ordering it in. However, they would be happy, as a favour to me, to give me the FBM brand for $30.
Given that I would be on this drug for 10 years and would be buying it from them every month for those 10 years, I asked if I could get it put on their ‘list’. The answer was ‘no’.
John at FBM actually implored me to stay on the Sandoz brand, because the last thing he wanted was for patients to be out of pocket or inconvenienced. I felt my heart twang at that comment.
I don’t want my experience to deter people from chasing up Letrozole (or Anastrozole) FBM, in fact, the opposite. Once you know a little bit about it, it is easy, but you have to be persistent. Ask for it, and keep asking.
I will continue to put my order in every month, negotiate the price and pay that $2 extra, for the next 10 years. Because in the long run, I think it is the best thing to do. I get my medicine, and the profits go back to BCNA and cancer research. And when John, having donated his retirement to help others, is up on the dais being recognised for his altruistic generosity, I’ll be applauding.