By: Jon Dellaquila, Compliance Manager
We have all heard various arguments around healthcare reform and its impact on the pharmaceutical industry, and deservedly so; healthcare is vitally important to all of our wellbeing. The rising cost of prescription drugs has become a concern to many over the years, and suffering through the worst recession in decades certainly does not help. In a 2009 survey conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, 70 percent of the 2,004 participants had to modify their lifestyle in order to afford their prescription drugs. A more stunning conclusion from this study revealed that 28 percent of the people polled actually stopped filling their prescriptions because they were unable to afford them. These facts are very concerning. People with potentially life-threatening conditions are putting their own health at risk in order to survive financially. Scary, very scary. Many people reading this may be affected, or may know someone who has faced a similar situation. I unfortunately, can relate to the latter. However, the situation involving this person close to me actually worked out for the best.
Growing up, I always wanted to be a Pharmaceutical Sales rep and decided to head towards a financial degree in college. However, the day before I was to leave for my sophomore year, I had to have knee surgery to repair a torn medial meniscus. Being the naturally inquisitive person I am, I asked if I could watch it. So I did, even after the nurse told me that no one actually makes it through; they typically pass out. I made it though, and after that, I switched my entire class schedule for the fall semester because I had decided I wanted to be a doctor. I never made it to med school, but did find myself working in the pharmaceutical industry and eventually working in the field of Oncology clinical research.
A relative of mine was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer, and her doctors indicated that chemotherapy would probably not be effective in her particular case; instead they suggested simply monitoring her progress. For a year, everything was great and nothing had changed. Recently however, her physician suggested that it may be worthwhile for her to try a relatively new cancer treatment, which targets a specific receptor that is significantly expressed in several types of cancer. This drug is currently approved as a second line therapy; however, not as a first line therapy for her particular cancer. Since she did not receive chemotherapy and she would be using it as a first line therapy, it would not be covered by insurance. She was to take it every day for a year... at a cost of $5,000 a month. Do the math; it is a significant amount of money for one year that very few could possibly afford. What would you do?
I put on my Oncology hat and started doing some research about the drug, the company that makes it and if there were any programs she would be eligible for that provided assistance. Turns out, the company itself offered a patient assistance program; however, she was denied based on her income level. Well, a friend of hers got involved and wrote a letter to the company. A week or so later, an individual from the company called my relative and informed her that they were going to help her out. They would provide the drug to her - free of charge. It was a story that was hard to believe; one you hope for, one you pray for. One I just had to share.
As the great Jimmy Valvano said in his 1993 ESPY acceptance speech, “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.” If you or someone you know is in a similar position where a prescription drug becomes too expensive to afford or is simply unaffordable from the start, utilize the internet. Explore the drug and how it works, research the company that makes it. Do not be afraid to reach out to a friend in the industry or ask your doctor. You never know what programs may be out there that could provide assistance. Times may get tough and money can get tight, but you can never put a price tag on your life.
For assistance on programs that are available, please visit ‘Rx Assist, the Patient Assistance Program Center at http://www.rxassist.org/.
 http://www.consumerreports.org/health/prescription-drugs/sticker-shock-at-the-pharmacy-counter/overview/sticker-shock-at-the-pharmacy-counter.htm - Accessed on February 5, 2010.
 http://www.jimmyv.org/remembering-jim/espy-awards-speech.html - Accessed on February 5, 2010.
 http://www.rxassist.org/ - Accessed on February 5, 2010.