Archive for July, 2012

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Gardasil: Save What You Have Left!

July 13, 2012

There’s been a lot of discussions about the Gardasil vaccine in the news lately over the past few years, especially when it was approved by the FDA in June 2006 for females between the ages of 9 and 26. It’s a vaccine that protects against the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), but only the four most aggressive strains (types 6, 11, 16, & 18). These are the types that have been proven to cause cervical, vaginal, vulvar, penile, and anal cancer, as well as the majority of the cases of genital warts. In October 2009, it was finally approved by the FDA for boys between the ages of 9 and 26 as well, so that was an important stride in helping prevent men (mostly gay men) from having any further health issues to deal with.

On top of what most of us on this blog have to deal with in having surgeries or living with these digestive diseases, I can’t imagine we would want any further troubles down there, as this virus can cause. I’m living post-surgery and have an ileo-rectal anastomosis, so that means I still have my rectum. That means that an HPV infection, especially with one of those aggressive types, could lead to genital warts and/or anal cancer in my case. If I was have genital warts in the anus or my rectum, that would mean I would need more surgeries to remove them, causing more scar tissue, or weakening my anal or rectal walls. And of course any diagnosis of anal cancer could be quite deadly or lead to extensive treatments, all of which are unappealing.

Another important key point about this vaccine is that if you have your rectum still, like I do, then you should know from previous posts on here that it means you can still be sexually active as the receptive partner. One thing we can learn from these diseases is that being the receptive anal sex partner is nothing to take advantage of and so I would hate to think that I might have the possibility of losing the rectum I have to any form of genital warts and/or anal cancer. I want to be able to keep what little I have left so I can use it!

Now the 2nd part of this Gardasil vaccine process is that it’s quite a tricky thing if you are a male. Even though it’s been approved by the FDA, some insurance companies will not cover the drug. I have United Healthcare and I know they do not cover the vaccine for males of any age. Blue Cross/Blue Shield will cover the vaccine for girls under the age of 18 only. The cost for the vaccine can range between $150-$250 per injection, and you will need three injections of the vaccine to complete the series. That can cost you up to $450-$750! That might not include the office visit to get the injection, or the cost of just a vaccination, depending on what insurance you have.

I tried appealing the vaccine with my insurance company on three separate occasions. I wrote them a letter letting them know I was a sexually active gay male in my 20’s and that I had a previous medical condition causing me to have needed multiple surgeries in the past in my digestive tract. The 2nd time around, I even had my doctor write a letter on my behalf submitting medical information proving his urgency in feeling I needed this vaccination. I also sent them all the information from the FDA, showing them I was in the age range and demographic range of people needing the vaccine, but it was all to no avail. My insurance company stood their ground on not covering the drug.

But when I went for my annual checkup in June 2012, my doctor asked me if I had gotten it yet and I told him no. So he offered me one more option that he said he had just learned about recently; He said that he could give me a written script for the vaccine and that I take the script to a pharmacy and see if they’ll give it to me based on the regular pharmacy co-pays. Then I pick up the vaccine and bring it to his office and they’ll inject it for me. I was worried this might not work, but I said I would try it anyways. So I dropped it off at my pharmacy and when I went back the next day, they told me it was a $20 co-pay. I asked them to make sure they submitted it to my insurance company and that it was the actual response and they said yes. So I was more than happy to give over my $20 and I brought the vaccine right over to my doctor’s office (it needs to be refrigerated, so only pick it up when you know you can get it injected soon after). His nurse injected it in my arm and all was finally done after two years of appeals with my insurance company!

I go back in month to get my 2nd injection, then I get my 3rd one 5-6 months after that. That will complete the HPV vaccination series. I can’t promise this way will work for everyone, but I know this was a way that it worked for me, because that way they don’t have to bill it as a full vaccine through my doctor’s office, they can just bill it as a drug that is covered under my pharmacy benefits.

So go ahead and get yourself vaccinated, because we Gay Digesters and have been through enough troubles with our butts already!

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