May 31, 2012

Pharmacy program assists patients who can’t afford medications

Pharmacy program assists patients who can’t afford medications

The Pharmacy Department at Vanderbilt University Medical Center has launched a new full-time team to assist Vanderbilt patients who lack financial resources to obtain medications.

Drug companies have assistance programs for patients who cannot afford brand name medications. Fewer such programs are available for drugs whose patents have expired, but help can sometimes be found. Many practice groups at Vanderbilt have helped patients tap into these resources. Drugs are provided to the patient at no cost, usually by mail directly from the producer.

With 3.5 full-time equivalent employees, the new Vanderbilt Pharmacy Patient Assistance Program (PharmPAP) supports patients and their Vanderbilt Medical Group prescribing providers through the application process. The goal is to improve and standardize service to patients while lowering costs. Assistance will reach more qualified VUMC patients while helping VUMC to avoid taking losses to cover these drug costs for patients.

All practice groups and clinical areas at Vanderbilt should refer any patients who are seeking assistance in obtaining medications to PharmPAP.

According to Steve Huffines, Pharm.D., director of pharmacy business services, medications for indigent patients at Vanderbilt are currently subsidized by drug companies to the tune of $1.4 million per year. He said the new centralized program should lead to the doubling of that assistance next year.

“To reach more patients with this assistance, we need partners in all clinical areas,” Huffines said.

Even patients who have pharmacy coverage sometimes forego medication for financial reasons, because they can’t afford co-pays or because they need a medication for a non-covered, off-label use. Solutions are often available to help these patients, Huffines said.

“The people across VUMC who have tried to help patients tap into these programs haven’t always been aware of exactly what pharmacy coverage patients may or may not have. To make these programs work to everyone’s benefit, determining that coverage turns out to be a crucial step. To do this right, we need everyone to refer these patients to PharmPAP,” Huffines said.

To refer patients, call PharmPAP at 936-2884, or send a note via StarPanel or email ( PharmPAP will need the patient’s name or medical record number, the prescribing provider’s name, the drug name and dosage, and the office location for hand delivery and pick-up of application paperwork.