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Timothy L. Vollmer, MD
Department of Neurology
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Department of Neurology
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Can’t Afford Your Prescriptions? Here’s How to Get Help

By Trevis Gleason
Published May 8, 2015

Earlier this week I wrote about the price of multiple sclerosis drugs in the United States. That piece was on the heels of a report published in Neurology that told of the out-of-control rise in the costs of disease-modifying therapies for MS.

The blog was shared hundreds of times by our readers on social media sites. I thank you for your generosity, and I share your alarm at the current state of things. That said, and until we all work to find a change to the system, there is some help for those struggling to pay for their meds.

We must first note, of course, that some people choose not to take any multiple sclerosis medications for a number of reasons. It is important that we respect every individual’s decision on this matter.  None of us have any right to berate another person for taking, or not taking, medication based on our opinions. I will not have any member of our community belittled by those who call the drugs they use to control this disease “poison,” or who spread the myths of collusion with doctors, or beat the frustration drum saying that no one is actually looking for a cure.

We must respect the decisions each person makes with their medical team as we would expect our own decisions. Besides, it’s none of anyone else’s business.

Now, on to the assistance programs and how they work.

There are two major types of prescription assistance programs: pharmaceutical company sponsored programs and assistance from charitable organizations.

I found a listing of pharma-sponsored patient assistance programs on the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America site to be helpful not only for disease-modifying therapies but also for relapse treatment and medicines for symptom management. I liked this page very much for its inclusion of some of the eligibility requirements, though they are only listed as reported by pharma.

Another great site for medication assistance programs offered by pharma (not just for MS meds) as well as some of the charitable funds can be found on the Pharmaceutical Assistance Program page

The National MS Society (NMSS) lists five nonprofit organizations that offer prescription assistance at the bottom of their page on the subject. As well, some chapters of NMSS offer direct assistance for MS prescription drugs.

Most nonprofit organizations base their assistance on income level and need, whereas most of the pharma programs have blanket criteria(though some have undisclosed financial eligibility requirements).

When it comes to paying for these outrageously expensive medications, many if not most people have difficulties affording even co-pay and co-insurance rates. These flawed assistance programs are the only lifeline for MS management plans which include disease-modifying treatments.

The pharmaceutical programs cover co-pay amounts (up to varying ceilings) but they still charge our insurance providers the full wholesale price of the drugs. What’s forking out a “charitable” few hundred a month when they’re raking in tens of thousands (or more than a hundred thousand) per year for each patient?

The system is inarguably broken and even twisted. I urge all of us to get behind legislation that will change the status quo. Until that happens, however, these assistance programs may help those using medications to afford them. I’d encourage any of us who can afford even a small donation to the nonprofit organizations that help our MS community to do so.

And by the way, for others who don’t have MS but need help with medical bills, here are some additional articles on treatment costs and resources:

Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by EVERYDAYHEALTH
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length

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