By Erik Foehr, Ph.D.
Pharmaceutical companies cultivate relationships with non-profits and patient advocacy groups. These so-called co-pay charities help get patients access to important medicines. They provide assistance to pay for the initial prescription co-pay and access to government and private drug program benefits. However, these programs often result in taxpayers (via Medicare) paying drug companies huge sums of money and may be one of the reasons why drug prices continue to skyrocket. The federal government took notice and recently subpoenaed several drug companies and charities. What can charities, pharma companies, and taxpayers do?
Prescription medicines are of central importance to managing disease. However, over 50 million Americans still lack health insurance and, many who have it, do not have prescription drug coverage. In 2003 Congress expanded Medicare to cover prescription drugs. Drug companies can help patients afford pricey prescriptions via discount cards and, if they are on Medicare, they need to utilize charities to gain access to pharmaceuticals. These changes kicked off a rapid expansion in prescription assistance programs and co-pay charities.