Loretta, Park Hills

Loretta’s son Wesley received a lifesaving liver transplant at the age of 2. Since then, his life has depended on the potency and effectiveness of chemotherapy and immune suppression medications. For years, their family was mandated by their insurance company to receive the medications by mail only, despite the serious risks that posed. Shortly after his liquid oral medications were delivered by mail in nothing but a plastic envelope on a 102 degree day shipped on a hot enclosed non-temperature controlled UPS truck, her son went into liver rejection which could have resulted in complete liver failure or death. Loretta had a feeling it was because the medications arrived impotent, but she was trapped by her insurance company to continue using the mail-order delivery service. The life-saving pharmaceuticals were again shipped on hot or freezing days in unsafe bubble-mailers that put them far outside of temperatures proven safe by the manufacturer, even Loretta implored anyone she could contact to change their procedure. It wasn’t until she was able to connect with Fox 2 news and publicize her story that Loretta was allowed to pick up the medications at the pharmacy at which they were filled. Though Loretta has been able to achieve this step for her son’s safety, there are so many mothers she connected with in the process who have not been able to change their insurance companies minds.

Since her son’s liver failure, Loretta has been working tirelessly to fight against the forces at play within out for-profit health care system and continues to, even more so now. Before she contacted Fox, she tried to work within the system to understand and change mandatory mail-order pharmacy practices. She first contacted the drug manufacturer, who told her that liquid medications like the ones her son takes are the most harmed by the mishandling of medications outside of the manufacturer’s temperature storage guidelines, and that she should discard any medication that is mailed and transported dangerously. She then contacted the mail order pharmacy, who refused to replace the improperly shipped medication because– they said– the U.S. Pharmacopoeia (USP) allows them to ship medication in temperatures up to 104 degrees. Suspicious, she directly contacted the FDA and confirmed that the mail order pharmacy should be using the manufacturer’s guidelines, not the reference range set by the USP. She found that since the mail order pharmacies are regulated loosely by the State Board of Pharmacy and not the FDA, their hands were tied. She later received in writing from USP themselves that the mail order pharmacy’s initial statement wasn’t true; USP states that medications should only be kept under the manufacturers’ guidelines (which, for her son’s medications would have been 59-86 degrees). Loretta spoke with the UPS driver, who told her his truck gets much hotter than 104 degrees on a 90 degree day, so hot that he cannot breathe when he goes into the back for a package.

Loretta also made over 30 calls to the insurance company imploring them to let her pick up her son’s medication herself, all of which were denied. Her son’s physician, too, wrote them a note of appeal on behalf of his transplant team, which was also denied. It wasn’t until the media became involved that the insurance company eventually budged and allowed her to pick the medications up at the pharmacy. The saga of misinformation and stubborn profit-seeking by CVS, which owns both her insurance company and her mail-order pharmacy resulted in the near-death of her son. The antics of huge companies like CVS interfere with the vital relationships between patients and their pharmacists and do not serve people who depend on responsive care. Loretta is determined to change this.

Loretta is a member of Missouri Health Care for All and continues to be a fierce advocate for health care reform. She knows that too many lives like Wesley’s are at the whim of insurance companies’ predatory and discriminatory policies, and she is determined to see substantial change. She understands that mail-order is helpful for some people, but she wants to ensure it is never the only option for coverage. See her petition, where she posts regular updates on her fight here:  https://www.change.org/p/attn-all-legistlatures-state-board-of-pharmacies-ban-mail-order-drug-mandates-from-all-health-insurance-plans-monitor