A national coalition that includes drug companies, health care providers, advocates, activists, and community leaders unveiled a partnership in April that plans to help low-income people gain access to prescription drugs, including anti-HIV medications, through public-assistance programs. Called Partnership for Prescription Assistance, the program offers a single point of access to more than 275 public and private patient-assistance programs, including more than 150 charitable programs offered through drug companies. Before the partnership was launched, each program had to be applied to and accessed separately, creating an enormous burden on people who need several medications, including HIV patients who typically need at least three anti-HIV drugs to craft a successful antiretroviral regimen.
The partnership also provides information on government programs that low-income people might be able to access, including AIDS Drug Assistance Programs, Medicaid, and Medicare.
'Millions of Americans already benefit from patient-assistance programs, but we know that millions more who are eligible have not yet enrolled,' says Mary E. Frank, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, which is involved in the partnership. 'Because of this effort on the part of the pharmaceutical industry to simplify and broaden its assistance programs, each patient's personal physician will find it easier to help get the medications needed.'
Interested applicants can visit www.pparx.org online or call (888) 477-2669 toll-free to speak with a specialist to find out if they are eligible for assistance and to begin the application process.
The new drug-access program could be particularly useful for low-income HIV-positive Americans, activists say, especially in light of a report released in April by the Florida-based AIDS Institute showing that more than 321,000 Americans infected with the virus do not have continuous access to life-saving antiretroviral drugs. That figure includes 233,069 Americans who know they are HIV-positive and an estimated 88,000 people who are unaware that they are infected but would not have continuous drug access if they were diagnosed and sought treatment, according to the report.
'These startling statistics,' AIDS Institute director of federal affairs Carl Schmid says, 'which reveal embarrassingly large gaps in treatment for people with HIV in our own country, hopefully will resonate in the halls of Washington as the fate of public financing programs, such as Medicaid, Medicare, and the Ryan White Act, are determined'programs that so many people living with HIV who are disproportionately poor and uninsured rely on.