When physicians first diagnosed Dr. Sonia Nagda, now a thirty-year-old health policy professional in Washington, D.C., with rheumatoid arthritis more than a decade ago, she was a competitive weight lifter and cheerleader. Sonia began suffering from classic rheumatoid arthritis symptoms—such as morning stiffness that left her walking hunched over after getting out of bed, joint pain and swelling, and contractures that prevented her from being able to fully extend her dominant right arm—when she was eighteen years old. “I felt like the Tin Man,” Sonia said. Sonia described going from being a weight lifter to not being able to lift a glass of water because it was too heavy for her swollen joints. Things changed for Sonia in 2003 when, after taking a series of traditional chemical medications with limited success, she switched to the biologic Humira. This biologic resolved her contractures so that her arm could freely swing past a ninety-degree angle. “Humira saved my life,” said Sonia, whose symptoms have been beaten back into remission since 2010. “I wouldn’t have been able to be a physician or a mother and hold my own child. Now I have my whole life ahead of me.” Sonia’s family, however, paid up to $2,000 a month out of pocket for Humira because, according to Sonia, no health insur- ance plan would cover the medical expenses related to her preexisting rheuma- toid arthritis condition.
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