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Monday, April 23, 2007

Medication becomes like diamonds: An access & patient compliance story

"Carlos," a slight, soft-spoken man who makes a living ferrying tourists around Boca Chica in the Dominican Republic, arrived at the doctor’s office in 2000, near death. He had tested HIV-positive a few years before, but had been unable to afford the 30,000 pesos, or $1,000 a month, for medicine on the black market. The doctor started him on an older, cheaper drug combination, and then Carlos’ brother-in-law in the Bronx began buying medication from a "non-control" drug dealer (of prescription, non-controlled substances). Now, Carlos supplements his $300 monthly income by reselling pills he doesn’t need for about $80 a bottle.

"Medication becomes like money," says his doctor, "like diamonds for somebody, because they see their life in there. And it is in there."

Advice for patients like Carlos: If your doctor says you need the pills, take them.

Read a related black market access story, or Kai Wright’s source story in the May/June issue of Mother Jones.

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