Getting help in getting prescription drug help

Prescription drugs are often an important part of a patient’s treatment, and they can also be an expensive part of the overall medical bill. I’ve mentioned in the past several ways self-pay patients can save money, such as using a prescription drug price comparison tool like WeRx, obtaining a prescription drug discount card such as the one offered by NeedyMeds, and of course using generic drugs whenever possible.

In cases where even these options aren’t enough to make prescription drugs affordable, nearly every pharmaceutical manufacturer in the country offers some sort of patient assistance program that either dramatically discounts drug prices or gives them away for free. 

Because every drug company has their own program, application process, and eligibility standards, it can be a challenge to track down all the information especially for patients who need multiple drugs from multiple companies. 

One source of help in this area is NeedyMeds, which I featured several weeks ago and described as a ‘one stop source for prescription drug savings.’ NeedyMeds essentially is a portal to all of the patient assistance programs offered by the drug companies, providing links, summaries of the programs, and other useful information. 

The one thing that NeedyMeds doesn’t do is actually submit applications or manage the process for individual patients. For many patients, that’s not a problem, as they’re perfectly capable of handling all the work themselves.

For others however, the process can become overwhelming, and keeping track of all the different applications, requirements, standards, renewals, and other details for multiple patient assistance programs is simply more than they can handle.

For patients who’d like to be able to have someone else navigate and manage patient assistance programs for them there’s a company I recently learned about, The Rx Connection.

On their site, they describe themselves and the services they provide this way:

The RX Connection was founded to help uninsured and under-insured Americans afford their prescribed medications. The high cost of brand name drugs has caused many people to be forced to go without their much needed prescriptions. The RX Connection advocates refuse to accept this and have worked hard to develop an innovative way to help those who qualify receive their prescribed drugs, for free, through the Prescription Assistance Programs (PAPs).

The RX Connection is a for profit organization that helps to facilitate the completion of Patient Assistance forms and applications. We handle all the paper work for you and your doctors office, we do all the necessary filing, and we also work directly with the pharmaceutical companies to see you through the entire approval process of your applications. Once enrolled, your medications are typically mailed directly to your doorstep in 90-day supplies. We also assist with the refill process.

We understand that patients looking for assistance with their medications are often in a tough situation and need a helping hand. This is why we offer a human touch with real people who answer the phone and provide assistance along the way…

I spoke with two representatives of The Rx Connection yesterday to get a better sense of how they operate, and was impressed. They were the first to admit that not everyone needs their services, and they tell people that the prescription assistance programs themselves are free and that anyone can enroll in them on their own. What their clients pay for is their services in managing the process.

The prices seem pretty reasonable, particularly in light of the potential risks of missing a renewal deadline, not requesting a refill in time, or not submitting the paperwork correctly, which could mean missed medications and deteriorating health as a result.

The Rx Connection told me that patients generally wind up paying between $20 and $40 a month for their services, but nobody is locked in to a long-term contract. The cost to patients depends on the number of prescriptions that need to be managed. Savings vary by patient of course, but they told me on average the patients using their services save at least $150 a month in drug costs, often much more.

They will also check to see if generic drugs are available, and if they are recommend that patients try them and refer them to Rx Outreach, a nonprofit that focuses on providing low-cost generic drugs to the uninsured and low-income patients.

Some might balk at the idea of a for-profit company charging to do something that people can do for free themselves. But in this case, it’s really no different than hiring someone to do your taxes – sure you can do it yourself, and for people with relatively uncomplicated situations that’s usually going to be the right move.

But just as for many others it makes more sense to hire a tax professional, for many patients who have more complicated situations and are concerned about their ability to manage participation in patient assistance programs, hiring Rx Outreach or a similar company (I don’t know of any, but please let me know if you do!) can be the right move ensuring they receive the prescription drugs they need without unnecessary interruptions or problems.

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