A Kinsale-based mother-of-two who vomited up to 50 times a day during her first pregnancy has welcomed the Government's move to fund hyperemesis drug Cariban.
Tina Hemlock Coyne has been pregnant twice over the last six years. During her first pregnancy, there was no treatment that could help her extreme hyperemesis, which left her vomiting up to 50 times a day.
When she was pregnant the second time, Cariban reduced her nausea to a point where she would only vomit five or six times a day.
As Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has confirmed that the government are moving to reduce the cost of this medication, Ms Hemlock-Coyne said it should be the right of every pregnant person to be able to afford the potentially life-saving drug.
She described her first pregnancy with her daughter Lauren and the nausea that “knocked her for six” from the minute she was pregnant. Ms Hemlock-Coyne was unable to eat or drink and was “mentally and physically drained” from vomiting up to 50 times a day, and through the night.
“It was like there was somebody in the corner of the room with a remote control, and as soon as you start throwing up, and you go to take that second breath to throw up again, they press the button,” she said.
Her pregnancy was a constant battle to stay hydrated and nourished, going in and out of hospital “almost every second week” for a week or two at a time, to be hooked up to IVs.
By her second pregnancy with her daughter Ria, Cariban was available, medication which drastically reduced her vomiting to only five or six times a day, and allowed her to function.
However, the miracle drug didn’t come cheap. Ms Hemlock Coyne paid €180 per month for Cariban, €3,000 in total over the course of her pregnancy. As a result of the high price, many pregnant women resort to buying it abroad and from strangers online, doctors have said.
Part of the reason for the high price is that the drug is classified as a food supplement, rather than a medication that would more easily be made available under the medical card or drugs payment scheme.
Ms Hemlock-Coyne said she gets upset thinking about the drastic difference between her pregnancies with and without Cariban, and how others who are pregnant cannot afford the luxury.
“There's still a massive divide between the way men and women in this country are treated by the government. A man can walk into a chemist and he can get Viagra tablets on the medical card or drugs payment scheme,” she said.
“Anyone who suffers from hyperemesis deserves the right to be able to get this, whether they classify it as a drug or food supplement, whatever they decide, the one universal decision that should be made is that every woman deserves to be able to get this for free, or at least on the drug scheme,” she added.
Following years of campaigning by backbench politicians and Hyperemesis Ireland, Minister Donnelly has asked the HSE and the Women’s Health task force to find a solution to the adverse cost issue in a speedy manner.