The effective management of chronic diseases — asthma, diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol) — requires that patients adhere to prescribed drug regimens. Without access to affordable prescriptions, many end up in the emergency room by default. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that 25 percent of deaths from heart attack and stroke could be avoided through timely treatment.
DOC RxRelief, a drug program delivered through the Richmond-based Medical Society of Virginia Foundation, offers free prescription medications to qualified individuals. More than 60 medical practices across the state participate, including Riverside Medical Specialists in Newport News.
"We're always looking for avenues to provide medications for our patients who are indigent," said Dr. Patrick Haggerty, who practices internal medicine with the group. "I wish it was more widely known that people can enroll their practice." Individuals can also apply directly to DOC RxRelief, which taps into pharmacy assistance programs (PAPs) for needy patients, mostly those whose income falls below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
Last year, the program assisted more than 500 patients with medications worth $786,880; to date, in 2013, it has connected patients with $704,269 in prescription aid.
"If you can't help people with meds, why be out there providing the care," asked Dr. Janet Eddy, medical director, Bon Secours Richmond Care-A-Van, which participates in the program. She pointed out that a single inhaler for a common asthma medication, Advair, can cost $300 to $400 a month, and a rescue inhaler runs $30 to $40. For diabetes control, providing insulin is "huge." A vial can cost anywhere from $100 to $500, which may last anywhere from a week to a month, depending on a person's use. Though WalMart has a generic version for $25, they have to throw the vial out after a month — regardless of use — because of what the manufacturer says, said Eddy.
Eddy credits DOC RxRelief's coordinator, Katherine Carmon, with the program's effectiveness. "If she wasn't there it wouldn't work," she said. "She is constantly talking with our nurses and our patients, keeping track of when their renewals are due."
Carmon joined the program in 2010, three years after it was established. While it mostly helps the uninsured, the program is also available to some who fall into Medicare Part D's "donut hole," she said. All applications, whether made directly to the program or through a participating physician, go through her office. They're screened for eligibility and for the accuracy of the prescription. "Having a central coordinator is really a value-added service," said Haggerty.
Prescriptions are filled for three months, and applicants must call Richmond for renewal. An eligibility application must be completed once a year.
Salasky can be reached by phone at 757-247-4784.
Free prescription drugs
DOC RxRelief, funded by the Medical Society of Virginia Foundation, provides free prescription drugs for qualifying individuals with chronic diseases.
• Participating practice on Peninsula is Riverside Medical Specialists, 757-534-6109.
• Other patients and physician practices wishing to participate, call patient advocate Katherine Carmon at DOC RxRelief, 804-377-1005.