KAHULUI - Hawaii does not have rabies, and consequently, pharmacies do not stock rabies vaccine. However, that does not mean that nobody ever needs the vaccine.
Denise Cohen, a nursing professor at Maui Community College, ended up in that small category, and her experience with InformedRx (before it changed its name) was desperate and frustrating.
Although she never filed a formal complaint about the way she was treated, she remembered it when the Employer-Union Trust Fund switched drug coverage for state workers, including her.
"My son was in school in Washington, D.C., and he was bitten by a wild bat," Cohen said recently.
"He didn't inform us at first, but (later) he called us. We told him to go to the doctor. He did and started taking the first five series of rabies shots."
It was Christmas, and her son was planning to fly home, where he would continue taking the lengthy series of injections. If he could get the vaccine.
Cohen, using her medical knowledge, read up on rabies treatment and was alarmed to discover that once a patient begins the vaccine series, the second series must be undertaken within a few days. Otherwise, death or permanent and serious neurological deficits can arise.
Checking with the Hawaii Department of Health, she discovered no vaccine was in the islands.
"I was desperate," Cohen recalls. "I called InformedRx, it wasn't named that then, and a girl in Texas laughed at me. She said, 'Do you have any idea how expensive rabies vaccine is?'
"I said, 'Yes, I do.'
"She said, 'No way we are going to pay for that.' ''
Cohen says the shots were about $360 a dose - at cost.
"Les Krenk (pharmacist at Wailuku Clinic Pharmacy) said he would get it for me at cost. He got it in in two days."
When the EUTF board of trustees decided to give the drug contract for the thousands of state workers they administer insurance coverage for to InformedRx, Cohen immediately decided she would change coverage rather than deal with the new provider.
"I remember how she laughed at me," she said, recalling her telephone call to Texas. "It cost me about a thousand dollars. Thank God I can afford that, but think of the children who suffered . . . or had lifetime impacts because of this company."
InformedRx has declined to respond to questions about its services.
* Harry Eagar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.