The high cost of seeking opioid treatment drugs in Fargo

By  | 

FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - As a battle is underway in the courtroom by states trying to hold big pharmaceutical companies accountable for helping fuel the opioid crisis, one former addict says the cost of treatment is often more expensive than the street drug.

Jennifer Lightowler of Fargo contacted our Whistleblower Hotline to shed light on how hard it is to get treatment.

She first became an addict while taking painkillers about a decade ago for a leg injury.

“I found myself taking too many and then when I ran out…it's almost like, I was freaking out trying to figure out, okay how do I get more?” Lightowler said.

When doctors stopped prescribing pills, she then turned to heroin and her life took a downward spiral.

“I had never used drugs in my life, but that kind of kicked things off,” Lightowler said.

Suboxone is a drug that helps people wean off of opioids without experiencing withdrawal symptoms. The company that manufactures Suboxone is being accused by the federal government of fraud.

The drug also isn't cheap. It can cost up to $500 a month for treatment.

Lightowler has been off of opioids for three years and said she went nearly broke using Suboxone.

“With the name brand, I was spending almost $400 a month,” she said.

Up until a few months ago, a generic option wasn’t available.

Lightowler said it's cheaper but not by much.

“I think that these big corporations should make these meds affordable for everyone. And when you think about it, the people that are hooked on these drugs, heroin and painkillers, they're not bankers or lawyers. They're people like me,” Lightowler said.

She stopped buying the opioid treatment medication. For her, it came down to either rent or treatment and she just hopes her will is strong enough not to relapse.

Not all doctors can prescribe an opioid treatment drug. Doctors are required to get a federal waiver, which requires eight hours of training, to give out prescriptions drugs similar to Suboxone.