If you or someone you love are one of the millions of Americans with a chronic disease or a life-threatening condition, pharmaceutical manufacturers and their partners offer you a gift of hope this holiday season.
Pharmaceutical manufacturers are often criticized as Scrooge or the Grinch in our country’s health care system. Elected officials and advocacy organizations want to blame somebody for rising Rx costs, and the most obvious target is the Big Pharma.
But in this blame game, very little attention is given to the help the pharmaceutical industry and its partners quietly provide to patients in need through a variety of programs.
Such programs are often based on the patient’s household income, but not always. Patients with no health insurance coverage are often the first group considered eligible. Likewise, those with one or more chronic or life-threatening conditions are a high priority.
If you fall into one of these categories, check out the Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs) found on individual pharmaceutical company websites or through Partnership for Prescription Assistance (www.pparx.org), the website created by PhRMA, the trade association representing pharmaceutical manufacturers, linking patients to more than 475 different assistance programs.
On most of these websites, you can be connected with a customer support team member who can help determine if you are eligible and get you enrolled. You will be asked to verify that you are insured or uninsured and, in some cases, provide proof of income. You may need your physician to validate your condition. But once approved, access to medication is granted almost immediately.
(Note: Patients enrolled in Medicare or Medicaid /Medi-Cal may not be eligible.)
Pharmaceutical manufacturers also offer co-pay assistance, in which the patient is offered help with the cost of medication copayments. Some co-pay assistance programs do not limit who is eligible. And, it is important to know that some co-pay assistance programs will not help people on Medicare. Each program sets its own rules.
People searching for an online provider should check out www.RxAssist.org. This site was developed by AstraZeneca, a pharmaceutical manufacturer, with the sole purpose of helping people access needed medications. It is one of the best sites available.
The California Chronic Care Coalition (CCCC) launched this website www.mypatientrights.com in California and is taking it nationwide to help people who have been denied treatment or medicines, experienced delays or are dis satisfied with the decisions made by their health plan. Today, this program is operating in 17 states. It helps patients get the care or treatment they need if denied. Or, if their plans don’t cover their meds and force them to pay full price.
For patients of nonprofit healthcare providers with pharmacies built into their clinics or hospitals, the Dispensary of Hope (DOH) website should be at the top of the list (http://dispensaryofhope.org). DOH is a non-profit distributor whose mission is to create pathways for donated medicine to reach individuals in need and without access. DOH receives medication from pharmaceutical manufacturers and re-distributes it to nonprofit healthcare providers across the United States. Eligible patients receive their medications for free.
Direct Relief (https://www.directrelief.org/usa/safety-net-support) helps nonprofit safety net providers by delivering no-cost pharmaceuticals and medical supplies on an ongoing basis. The Safety Net Support program leverages Direct Relief’s partnerships with companies that donate medicine and medical products with the sole purpose of caring for low-income patients who do not have health insurance.
For people taking medications for cancer, diabetes, AIDs and other chronic diseases, there are many sources of help. For example, Pfizer offers a program for cancer patients (https://www.pfizeroncologytogether.com) that provides not just medication but also access to a social worker to help them navigate the complexities of dealing with numerous health providers as well as their insurance company.
Lilly offers a program for people with diabetes (http://www.lillycares.com) and Novo Nordisk offers a program as well (http://www.novonordisk-us.com/content/dam/USA/AFFILIATE/www-novonordisk-us/Home/Patients/Documents/PAP_Application_English.pdf). Abvie also offers a diabetic assistance program (1 800 222 6885).
Publix grocery stores lead the nation in offering free medications for customers. Their pharmacies offer – at no charge – up to a 14-day supply of medications, such as metformin for diabetics, and antibiotics, such as amoxicillin and ampicillin are offered at no charge. Visit the Publix website http://www.publix.com/pharmacy-wellness/pharmacy/pharmacy-services/free-medication-program for more information.
And, Meijer, a supermarket chain with stores located in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and additional locations in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Wisconsin, offers a free antibiotics program for amoxicillin, cephalexin, SMZ-TMP (excludes suspension), ciprofloxacin in 250, 500 and 750mg strengths (excludes suspension), ampicillin, and penicillin VK. In 2017, Meijer pharmacies surpassed $500 million in savings for customers through this free drug program. https://www.meijer.com/content/content.jsp?pageName=free_prescriptions&icid=LP:Meijer:080617:Feature:FreePrescriptions
This holiday season if you need help with your medications, you are not alone. Go to the websites cited throughout this article. They can help connect you with low cost and free alternatives. It is worth your time to explore these options. And, if you get frustrated, feel free to email me with your questions.