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High cost of multiple sclerosis treatment blamed for firings

Costs to treat multiple sclerosis can be quite high.

Two Alabamians who say they lost their jobs with large companies not because of a failure to perform but because of the cost of treating their multiple sclerosis joined Montgomery attorney Julian McPhillips for a press conference today.

McPhillips said their cases are part of a larger concern about the plight of people with MS who can do their jobs but need costly medications.

Andrew Bell, president of the Alabama-Mississippi Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, said the cost of drugs to treat MS has “skyrocketed” to an average of about $90,000 a year.

Bell said more than a million Americans and about 6,000 people in Alabama have MS, which he said usually strikes between ages 20 and 50.

“Most people with MS are of working age,” Bell said. “They want to continue working.”

Jennifer Akridge of Montgomery, 48, was fired from Alfa Insurance in December 2016 after 27 years with the company. She filed a disability discrimination claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and a lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The case is pending in federal court in Montgomery.

Akridge began working for Alfa in 1989 and was diagnosed with MS in 1993, her lawsuit says. Alfa named her its employee of the year in 1995, according to the lawsuit. Her illness was well known at the company and it required her to take paid leave intermittently but she was still able to do her job in underwriting, partly by working at home, the lawsuit says.

Read on: High cost of multiple sclerosis treatment blamed for firings

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