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Medication access through patient assistance programs

Am J Health-Syst Pharm.
2006; 63:1254-9

The retail cost of prescription medications increased an average of 7.4% annually from 1993 to 2003.1 This has significant implications for the millions of Americans who lack health insurance or prescription drug coverage. Among individuals with health insurance plans, 1 in 10 individuals age 65 years or younger and 1 in 3 persons over age 65 years lack prescription drug coverage... Patient assistance programs
(PAPs) are offered by pharmaceutical companies to help provide brand name medications for low-income individuals who lack prescription drug coverage.11,12 While these programs have the potential to increase patients’ access to needed medications, many patients who qualify for these programs may not be aware that they exist.  Read more...

The price of health care
The Frederick News-Post, Published on May 15, 2006

FREDERICK -- Frederick resident Arthur Briggs, 71, said he knew a man who had to choose between buying his prescription and buying food. The man chose his medicine -- only to find out the pills required that he eat food before taking them.  Read more...

A medical oasis 

By Jonathan Bor
sun reporter

April 14, 2006

For area residents who are working but have no insurance, Shepherd's Clinic is their chance for affordable health care.  Read more...

Packaging pills for the poor
By Brandon Dudley
Medbank of Maryland is the professional equivalent of the old proverb, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

The nonprofit based in Towson provides free access to medications for chronically ill, low-income Maryland residents who have no insurance or are under-insured and also saves taxpayers millions of dollars doing it.

The organization was founded in 1999 by Robert McEwan, a former administrative director of the transplant center at Johns Hopkins University, who became the CEO of Medbank in 2003.

Herman Glassband, left, and Garette Matrin-Yeboah fill prescriptions at the Medbank bulk-distribution pharmacy in Towson.

"I identified a need amongst patients who were having catastrophic illnesses unnecessarily because they weren't being properly medicated," the Jarrettsville resident said.

Since the beginning, Towson-based Medbank has served nearly 42,000 patients across the state, McEwan said.

Medbank works with pharmaceutical companies to obtain the free medications. Its bulk-distribution pharmacy off York Road in Towson works directly with four major companies - Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Abbott and Novartis - to distribute donated medications to their clients' doctors. The companies send Medbank the medications based on needs of patients in the area, McEwan said.

It also works with many other pharmaceutical companies' medication donation programs and has access to more than 900 medications, McEwan said. Pharmaceutical companies gave more than $4 billion in free medications last year, he said.

The most common ailments Medbank provides medications for are hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, breathing disorders and mental illnesses, McEwan said.

The yearly cost of the program is about $2 million. Less than 30 percent is covered by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the rest comes from grants and donations.

The cost of running the program and providing the free medications is much less than the cost of not medicating those in need, McEwan said. A study in conjunction with the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy showed that people without access to needed medications were likely to be hospitalized at least once each year, costing on average of $12,000.

With Medbank providing medications for about 10,000 patients a year, the hospitalizations are often prevented, he said, saving taxpayers millions of dollars.

"It's a huge cost to society, not medicating people," McEwan said.

Phyllis Stickles, of Middle River, has been with Medbank for about three years, but she will soon no longer be eligible for Medbank services because of the new Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit .

"I'm very, very sorry to see them have to leave us now to the new Medicare Part D set up," she said.

"I have nothing but positive (experiences with Medbank) and am very thankful to have them for the period of time that I did."

Robert N. McEwan

MEDBANK of Maryland Inc.
Advancements in Health Care Honoree
Mark Smith
The Daily Record, 2006

It’s not getting any cheaper to get prescriptions — a serious problem even for Americans with some money in the bank.

For chronically ill, low-income, uninsured and underinsured patients to receive the medication they need, it’s often nearly impossible. So Robert N. McEwan, founder and CEO of Towson-based MEDBANK of Maryland Inc., is trying to make it easier.

With MEDBANK’s RxBridge, a recently created software program that connects physician information with free medication programs, patients nationwide are able to apply for and receive all of the medication they are eligible for based on income, assets, age and insurance parameters.

RxBridge is based on the nonprofit’s initial software offering, Patient Bridge, which debuted for Maryland patients in 2000.

At that time, there was no easy way to help patients who were not eligible to receive medication they couldn’t afford. MEDBANK supplied the infrastructure to process the necessary forms needed to facilitate delivery of medications.

“Before Patient Bridge, the doctor was expected to do all of the paper work, and they certainly didn’t have time,” McEwan said. “When we started providing automated paperwork for the doctors, patients could more easily acquire all the drugs they needed.”

Today, RxBridge also offers pharmaceutical companies the opportunity to donate inventory directly to a given nonprofit via MEDBANK’s own nonprofit division, MEDBANK Pharmacy Inc. The charitable arm helps lower the cost of administering patient assistance programs in Maryland by offering companies a philanthropic deduction in return for their gift.

To date, nearly 42,000 patients in Maryland have received more than $65 million in free medications, and MEDBANK has mentored startup programs in five other states since 2000.

Next up for the company is the spring launch of a new product called the Qualifier, which will enable patients to be screened electronically for every entitlement, discount or free drug program available.

“We are simply trying to bring current technology to the service industry by trying to leverage technology to reach more underserved people faster,” McEwan said.

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South Florida's Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs:  Cost and Benefits of Alternative Solutions.  Read testimony of Robert N. McEwan, CEO of MEDBANK of Maryland.



Quick Facts

The value of the medicines received through the Maryland MEDBANK Program last year was estimated
to be nearly $20,000,000 per year.

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