By Liz Highleyman
Access to prescription drugs is one of the most pressing needs of people with chronic illness, and has become a major political issue as well. Many people are finding it increasingly difficult to find health insurance that will cover expensive drugs for long-term and preexisting conditions. Fortunately, many pharmaceutical companies have developed patient assistance programs to help people access necessary medications.
Patient assistance programs help many people access various reimbursement programs or insurance benefits that they were not aware of or did not know they were eligible for. Reimbursement specialists may help provide assistance with insurance verification, preauthorization, denied appeals, and referrals to state and local assistance programs. Needless to say, drug companies are motivated to help patients explore every possible avenue for drug reimbursement. In cases in which no such alternatives are available, companies may provide medications themselves at low cost or for free.
Schering-Plough’s Commitment to Care program is designed to help low-income people access life-saving drugs at no cost. Through Commitment to Care (for people with hepatitis and cancer) and another patient assistance program for people with other illnesses, Schering-Plough helped some 40,000 patients access medications in 2001. That year Commitment to Care—which covers Schering-Plough’s Peg-Intron (pegylated interferon), Intron A (standard interferon), Rebetol (ribavirin), and Rebetron (standard interferon plus ribavirin combination kit)—helped 10,000 patients locate reimbursement assistance and provided drugs for free to 16,000 more.
While patients need not be indigent to qualify for assistance through the Commitment to Care program, various financial and insurance criteria apply. Eligibility is determined on a case-by-case basis. The program is telephone based, and requires less paperwork than some other patient assistance programs. To register for the Commitment to Care program, patients can call toll free 800-521-7157.
Part 2 will feature information on InterMune’s patient assistance program for Infergen.
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