Making medicine accessible
Clinics help patients get access to lifesaving prescription drugs
August 28, 2013 College News - When Ray* went to fill his prescription after being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, he learned that the pills cost $400 a month. Ray, like many who cannot afford their medicine, found his hope for better health slipping away like the memory of a pleasant dream.
Fortunately, Ray found the Community MedShare Prescription Assistance Project, which was funded by the Healthier Wisconsin Partnership Program (HWPP), a component of the Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin endowment at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW), in 2011 to help thousands of working and uninsured Milwaukee residents obtain free or low-cost medication.
Through Community MedShare, project partners trained staff and recruited volunteers from Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to help patients apply for Patient Assistance Programs, which are offered by pharmaceutical companies to increase access to patented medication.
“Most of the drug companies have these programs, and most of them are for patients at less than 200% of the federal poverty line who do not have insurance,” Barbara Horner-Ibler, MD, Medical Director of the Bread of Healing Clinic, said. “They make medications available for free, but there is heavy paperwork involved.”
“It is an additional burden for patients,” Staci Young, PhD, Assistant Professor in MCW’s Department of Family and Community Medicine and Institute for Health and Society, said. “Even though this is a great resource, patients have to find a way to get looped into it.”
In the case of diabetes, asthma, and other chronic diseases, it is important for patients to stay ‘looped’ into these programs in order to maintain a stable condition.
“People with diabetes and asthma,” Horner-Ibler said, “have to have their medication or they’re in the hospital. Those are the options.”
Ray nearly found himself in that dilemma. The pharmaceutical company that invented the steroid he needed had sold the drug to another corporation, which made the application process even more difficult than usual to navigate.
“It took investigation and effort, but we were able to get the medication which was a lifesaver,” Horner-Ibler said. “He now has a normal blood count and he is back doing his two jobs.”
For Ray, and many others, fleeting dreams of wellness have been made real through reliable access to insulin, inhalers and other medicine that might otherwise be, like dreams too often are, just out of reach.
In honor of MCW’s 120th anniversary, we will be sharing stories like this one that highlight the College’s contributions to creating healthier communities. A new web page commemorating MCW’s 120th Anniversary includes links to a display of milestones in our history and a list of nearly 200 significant research discoveries made by faculty physicians and scientists throughout the years. These discoveries have saved lives and improved health in our community, in Wisconsin and beyond.
*Name altered to protect the patient’s privacy.
l-r Barbara Horner-Ibler, MD, Medical Director of the Bread of Healing Clinic and Staci Young, PhD, Assistant Professor in MCW’s Department of Family and Community Medicine and Institute for Health and Society