Do you know the feeling, when you come see something and you say to yourself: “Wow, this make just so much sense! I wonder why no one else has thought of it before?“ Well this is how I felt when I found patientassistance.com.
Patientassistance consolidates in one place all US based patient assistance programs provided by pharmaceutical companies and government. The site also allows patients to apply to programs via the website, a sort of online one-stop-shop for free medication.
Rex Bowden, the founder of this initiative was so kind to reply to some of my questions about this fascinating project.
Whydot: Why did you start this project?
Rex: 100 Million in America are either not insured or under insured and about 20 Million do not have the financial ability to purchased needed medication. We want to help these 20 million connect to programs that can assist.
We spent the first 35 years of our business life help employers set up healthcare packages as insurance brokers and later as health benefits cost accounting consultants. We believe prescription drugs are the first line of defense for healthcare cost relief.
Whydot: Have you been successful at improving patients’ access to medication so far?
Rex: We started PA in July 2008. We believe, we have made a difference in helping caregivers, families and patients? Note from whydot: The counter on the patient assistance websites shows over $800,000 in patient savings – not bad for 8 months
Whydot: what have been the biggest hurdles for you sofar and why?
Rex: Getting our message of help out to the public and getting caregivers and providers to carry the message of help to their patients. Caregivers and providers are over worked with no spare time between seeing patients. Time for patients education and caring to bring extra services to patients is not factored into cost accounting for healthcare. Educating the patients to programs such as ours is costly to caregivers and providers and produces no revenue to the provider. In some cases, caring providers reduce their bottom line to provide this education out of their own sense of generosity to the community and patients. We loudly applaud their contributions.
Whydot: Why should pharma collaborate with you? What is in it for them?
Rex: Pharma can reduce the cost of healthcare, by reducing emergency room visits. What is in it for them? We can help Pharma make more money by giving because of the tax code savings and co-pay and premium Pharma completion of the sale programs.
Whydot: Beyond your program, what else should pharma do to improve access to their therapies?
Rex: Electronic (import/export) patient enrollment (common application) similar to our Insurance electronic enrollment. (patient, caregiver and doctor use)
Whydot: How could pharma companies to improve access to their treatments? What information could they provide and how to make access less confusing?
Rex: Pharma could help by providing us an advertising budget to get to the caregivers, providers and patients. They should also lobby to get the insurance industry to make larger payments with regard to per visits time. Providers need not be rushed as they are now.
Thank you so much again, Rex, for taking the time to provide me with this information and for running such a valuable program. To all pharma friends reading this: please visit the patient assistance site and check that all of your patients assistance programs are listed… oh, and should you have some ad budget for Rex, don’t hesitate to get in touch
In conclusion, better access to treatments and care will be critical, especially in the current economic crisis. Many patients will be forced to make trade offs between their health and other critical depenses – do I continue my treatment, do I get the medical intervention I need OR do I continue to pay the loan on my house and my kids college fees? This will especially be true for therapies that you can put off for some time – I am thinking of Hepatitis C or MS therapies for example, that in addition to their high costs, also impact patients ability to function in their jobs.
In these trying times, finding innovative ways to provide affordable access to therapies will be critical to limit the impact of the crisis for patients. It will also be essential for pharma as it will create competitive advantage to that company that excels at it.