Many Clinics Do Not Use Industry Prescription Drug Assistance Programs
Many health clinics that serve low-income patients do not participate in prescription drug assistance programs sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry because they are "cumbersome," according to a study published in the April 1 issue of the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, the Newark Star-Ledger reports. For the study, researchers from the Public Health Institute, the University of California-Berkeley Haas School of Business and the University of California-San Francisco surveyed 214 clinics in California, Florida, Illinois, Oregon and Texas in 2002 and 2003.
The study found that 48 of the clinics did not use assistance programs sponsored by pharmaceutical companies. According to the study, about two-thirds of those 48 clinics said that assistance programs sponsored by pharmaceutical companies are "too time-consuming and complex," and 17% said that they were unaware of such programs. The clinics surveyed cited as the largest problems with the programs inconsistent eligibility criteria and application procedures, unexpected revisions and "unrealistic" requirements to document income, according to the study. The study also found that staff members at the clinics surveyed spent an average of 111 hours monthly on work with assistance programs sponsored by pharmaceutical companies and that 9% paid for help to submit applications.
According to the study, the clinics surveyed used assistance programs sponsored by Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Merck more often than those sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis and Schering-Plough.
Ken Johnson, a senior vice president for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said that the group has asked pharmaceutical companies to revise application procedures for their assistance programs. PhRMA plans to launch an assistance program nationwide next month. Johnson said, "Can we do a better job? Yes, and we will" (Schwab, Newark Star-Ledger, 3/31). The study is available online.