Help With Prescriptions During These Difficult Economic Times

July 31, 2009


The current economic conditions in this country, is having an impact on many people’s ability to purchase their prescription medicine. Some of the drug manufacturers are helping to provide additional prescription drug help. One large company, Merck, which manufactures Singulair for asthma, Januvia for diabetes and Fosamax for osteoporosis, has changed their guidelines on the amount of total annual income a family can make and still qualify for free prescription drug help. Now, single people making less than $43,000 can qualify for help with prescriptions. For a family of four, the limit is $88,000 or less.  Merck claims that it has helped over 1.7 million patients with $1.9 billion of medicine over the last seven years.

 Another company making a splash is Biogen.“We are committed to helping patients, and that commitment is evident in the $140 million of financial assistance we provided in 2008,” spokesperson Shannon Altimari from drug maker Biogen says. Biogen Idec provides help for prescription Avonex and Tysabri which is used for the treatment of multiple sclerosis.

The giant manufacturer Pfizer, the maker of Lipitor and Viagra, announced a program earlier this year called Maintain. This program provides free medicine to unemployed patients who need prescription drug help. Maintain is just one of several patient assistance programs that the company offers.

 AstraZeneca just announced that it was changing its medication assistance program to provide assistance sooner to certain patients. The company’s program offers free medicine or low-cost medicine to uninsured, low-income patients. AstraZeneca said in a statement that it “would immediately extend assistance to qualifying patients who have lost their jobs, had their incomes reduced or had a change in marital status or family size”. The company said these types of patients had been having problems qualifying for prescription drug help because their tax returns showed too high an income. Qualifying patients can now enroll by providing documentation of their current income and family size, AstraZeneca said.


How Ophthalmologists Can Help Low-Income Patients Obtain Prescription Medications

July 17, 2009


As the cost of prescription medicine continues to increase, many Americans do not have adequate insurance coverage for this expense. Actual spending on prescription drugs in the United States rose 17.1% from 2005 to 2006 while the average cost of prescription drugs rose 10.1%. Lower income Americans may be forced to choose between paying for essential medications or food.

A recent Harris Poll of 1100 adults found that 22% of those surveyed had not filled at least 1 prescription for medications during the year to save money. The problem is even greater in households with lower incomes. In households with incomes less than $25,000, 40% did not fill at least 1 prescription, and 30% took prescription medications less often than prescribed to save money. Along with multiple medications for hypertension, diabetes, or other systemic illnesses, ophthalmology patients often require long-term medications for the treatment of glaucoma, uveitis, or dry eye. Ophthalmology patients may view expensive sight-saving medicine as nonessential, especially when prioritizing the many systemic medications they require each month.

There are many ways ophthalmologists can help their uninsured or low-income patient obtain their much needed medicine at no cost, directly from the pharmaceutical manufacturers. Virtually all drug manufacturers offer assistance programs for those who have no prescription drug coverage and whose income falls below certain levels. These programs are not widely publicized, and many ophthalmologists and other healthcare professionals may be unaware of the programs. There are several ways to obtain information regarding these programs. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (San Francisco, CA) publishes the Directory of Ophthalmic Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs for the Medically Underserved. This directory was created by the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s EyeCare America program. This guide is free to ophthalmologists and provides an alphabetical list of ophthalmic medications and the manufacturer of each medication. The manufacturers are subsequently listed with information regarding the assistance programs of each manufacturer.

Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) (Washington, DC) provides a list of manufacturers’ advertised patient assistance programs free of charge.

A review of several manufacturers’ patient assistance programs reveals that these programs are currently being used by many who are aware of the programs. Patients must apply separately to each company for each medication and reapplication is typically required every 3 months. Patients may need to provide proof of income such as a tax return or notarized affidavit of financial need. Drugs are either shipped directly to the patient or to the physician’s office. Several of the applications require the physician to fill out applications on behalf of the patient. This paperwork may be burdensome but ultimately, as the patient’s advocate, the physician may be able to ensure that patients will receive sight-saving medications and avoid a potential decision between paying for food or paying for prescriptions.

There are several prescription assistance companies that act as an advocate for the patient and provide a valuable service. These companies will complete all the paperwork, coordinate the physician’s portion and appeal any denials, which is common. For patients that have multiple medications and other physicians in addition to their ophthalmologists these firms provide a very valuable service. 


Additional resources that might be able to help are:
BenefitsCheckUp helps thousands every day to find programs for people ages 55 and older that may pay for some of their costs of prescription drugs, health care, utilities, and other essential items or services.  Locator
A public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging, the Eldercare Locator connects older Americans and their caregivers with sources of information on senior services. The service links those who need assistance with state and local area agencies on aging and community-based organizations that serve older adults.

Medicaid –
The official U.S. government Medicaid site for consumers, with links to state-administered programs.
The official U.S. government site for people with Medicare. A Prescription Assistance Company
RxAssist provides qualified low-income individuals and families with access to generic versions of brand name medications.

Social Security Online –
The official Web site of the U.S. Social Security Administration.

July 13, 2009 is a very helpful site for patients that live in the state of Washington and need assistance with their expensive prescription medicine. This is a do-it-yourself website and is very complete. It will require the patient to fill out all of the information, determine what proof of income is needed, obtain the needed physician information and submit the forms to the drug companies. The patient is also responsible for all of the follow up and appeals if there is a denial (which isn’t uncommon). The patient is also responsible for the refill process down the road.

If the patient only has one or two medicines that they need help with and are pretty well organized, then this site should be helpful. However, if the patient is on several medications and needs someone to help them, then they should probably enlist the services of a fee based professional firm such as Rx Help. For a small monthly fee, Rx Help will complete all of the paperwork, coordinate with your physician, handle all appeals and track the refill process for you.

Help with prescriptions is very important for those that need it. If you live in WA and can do it yourself then you should check out If you need someone to help you and work on your behalf, please contact Rx Help.

Prescription Drug Help for Crohn’s Disease

July 6, 2009


Crohn’s disease falls within the broad category of disorders called Inflammatory Bowel Disease. It is a chronic, recurrent disease characterized by inflammation of any portion of the digestive tract from the mouth to the anus. About a third of all Crohn’s disease cases involve only the small bowel. Another half of all cases involve the small bowel and colon, and the remaining 20 percent of all cases affect the colon alone. The exact cause of Crohn’s disease is not known. Crohn’s disease occurs because of an abnormal immune response in the intestinal tract. This is caused by unknown environmental factors. There is no evidence that diet is involved in causing Crohn’s disease. The disease usually occurs between the ages of 15 and 35, but it has been reported in other age groups as well. It is more common in Caucasians and Jews. While viruses and bacteria can cause colitis (inflammation of the colon), there is very little evidence that infections actually lead to Crohn’s disease. Cigarette smoking however is frequently associated with the onset and worsening of Crohn’s disease.

The treatment of Crohn’s disease focuses on relieving the symptoms of the disease. This is accomplished by prescribing medicines that reduce the inflammation in the intestinal tract. Common drugs used to treat Crohn’s disease are aminosalicylates, steroids, antibiotics, anti-TNF agents, and immunomodulators. The primary method for inducing remission in severe Crohn’s disease continues to be oral or intravenous corticosteroids such as prednisone. Steroids work by reducing inflammation throughout the body and thus long-term use is associated with many side effects like osteoporosis, diabetes, and hypertension. Results have been obtained with the use of Entocort, a corticosteroid with high topical anti-inflammatory activity. This medication, though costly, can reduce the intestinal inflammation while minimizing the side effects that would commonly be experienced with prednisone.

Other drugs often used in Crohn’s disease are Asacol, Pentasa, Azulfidine, and Colaza. These medicines are quite safe, but may require large doses. Immunomodulatory drugs such as Imuran, Azasan and Purinethol are often effective in maintaining remission of Crohn’s disease. These medications are used long-term and require monitoring to prevent adverse effects. They work by changing the way certain inflammatory cells in the intestinal lining respond to inflammatory triggers. Remicade is a powerful anti-inflammatory drug that blocks the action of a specific molecule called tumor necrosis factor (TNF), a key mediator of the inflammatory process in Crohn’s disease. It is indicated for perianal Crohn’s disease or intestinal disease not responding to the usual first-line medications. This drug is actually a synthetic antibody and is given as an intravenous infusion for both induction and maintenance of remission.

It is important to note that Crohn’s disease is a manageable condition that affects as many as one million people in the United States. If you experience symptoms associated with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, talk to a physician about your symptoms. Help is available.

Hay Fever, Allergies and Asthma

June 13, 2009
 This time of year can be very rough for those that have hay fever, allergies and asthma. Over 22 million Americans are plagued during the spring and fall seasons by such annoying symptoms as sneezing, congestion, runny nose, itchy throat and red, watery eyes. 

One out of every six Americans suffers from an allergic condition and sales of over the counter products is a multi million dollar industry. Allergy is an inherited trait, a genetic susceptibility towards the production of certain allergy anti-bodies where hay fever is basically an allergic reaction to pollens from trees, weed and grasses. Unlike garden flower pollen, which is carried by insects, the dry lightweight pollens which cause hay fever are generally spread by wind currents which make them difficult to avoid. In fact, samples of ragweed pollen have been found 400 miles at sea! While most people suffer mild discomfort with hay fever, it is estimated that more than 40 percent of the 5.8 million children who have respiratory allergies miss some school, stay in bed or feel upset by the condition.

Additionally, complications from hay fever can be serious. The same allergens that cause hay fever can reach the lungs causing asthma and other complications. Sinusitis (inflammation of the sinus cavities) and nasal polyps (small outgrowths of the mucous membrane of the nose) may develop. Secondary infections of the ear, larynx and bronchial tubes may occur. Also, prolonged year-round nasal stuffiness and mouth breathing may lead to facial bone growth changes in children.

Unlike hay fever, asthma is a more complex disease involving a reversible constriction of the muscles lining the human airways. It is more often associated with allergy immune cells and can get progressively worse, reaching life-threatening stages if not properly controlled. It can be treated more effectively when it is diagnosed early. Medications that have been proven to be effective for the treatment of asthma include Advair Diskus, Albuterol, Asmanex, Foradil, Flovent, Prednisone, Pulmicort, Singulair, Symbicort, Ventolin, Xolair and Xopenex. 



Diabetes and Your Life

June 12, 2009

Anyone who is suffering from or knows someone who has diabetes knows very well how physically, mentally, emotionally and financially debilitating this disease can be. Though it affects people differently and how it affects an individual cannot be predicted, those affected with this condition can still live a healthy, normal life.

Staying healthy is important for all, but those with diabetes have to pay extra attention to their health. The symptoms and sometimes the medications used to treat this disease can have an impact on a person’s energy level, eating habits and feelings, thus compromising a person’s overall well-being. The key to treating diabetes is to control your blood sugar level. The following will help to do that:

• Eat healthy foods
• Lose weight if you are overweight
• Regular exercise
• Monitor your sugar level often
• No alcohol or tobacco
• Follow your doctor’s orders and take your medicine as prescribed  
By following the above guidelines, people with diabetes stand a better chance of improving the quality of their lives. However, for more than half of Americans residing in the US, the steep price of medication for diabetes can hinder their desire to better their lives. Each year millions of Americans across the United States who do not have the benefit of health insurance or prescription drug coverage plans are faced with costs that they are often unable to afford, causing them to risk their health, lives, and sometimes even their bank accounts. Here are a few tips on how you can save on medicine:

Be honest in telling your doctor if he can prescribe an equally-potent, yet cheaper, brand of medicine. Better yet, ask him if it’s okay that you buy generic or if he has samples he can give you.

Compare the prices of your prescription medicine. Visit or call pharmacies within your area and find out which offers the cheaper price. Many pharmaceutical companies offer coupons and rebates on medicine, so be sure to visit the companies websites or contact them by phone to find out more information.

Go online and register for programs out there designed specifically to help people who can’t afford their prescription drugs.

One In Ten Advanced Colon Cancer Patients Worry About Prescription Drug Costs

June 8, 2009

The large majority of advanced colon cancer patients, 90%, have no concerns about the cost of prescription drugs for managing chemotherapy side effects. These side effects include infection, pain and nausea. Very few of these patients did anything  to reduce their drug cost after becoming a participant of the clinical trial, according to a study released by researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. The study’s findings were presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual meeting in Orlando, Fla. on Friday, May 29.

“We were reassured to learn that few patients enrolled in the clinical trial engaged in coping strategies to minimize the impact of prescription drug costs, but we also recognize that these findings may not generalize to patients treated outside the clinical trial context,” reported Deborah Schrag, MD, MPH, of Dana-Farberthe, the study’s lead author.

DR Schrag did express concern, however  that given the current state of the economy, with a growing number of people losing their jobs, “we could witness growing anxiety among cancer patients about their ability to pay for medications that may help them adhere to their therapy.”

“The cost of cancer care today does force patients to make some hard financial decisions,” said Schrag. “As oncologists, we need to be mindful that this issue may be a concern for some patients and that communication about this topic both may help alleviate anxiety and identify strategies to minimize the cost burden.”