Clinic provides free meds to uninsured

The cost of prescription medications can be prohibitive for those with a chronic disease or multiple needs. For almost a decade, the Olde Towne Medical and Dental Center, OTMDC, has operated a Medication Access Program to help patients and other residents of its catchment area — Williamsburg, James City and York counties — access free drugs to maintain their health.

"This service is not only for OTMDC patients, but for patients living in the local community or being served by a local provider," said Georgia Mamangakis, program director.

In just the first quarter of this year, the Center dispensed free medications valued at almost $1.5 million, a slightly higher rate than the $4.4 million it gave out in all of 2012. "This is an extraordinary savings for the local community and hospital emergency rooms," said Mamangakis.

Each year, the clinic helps between 650 and 700 patients access free prescribed medications for conditions from asthma to breast cancer. To qualify, patients must be uninsured or have no prescription coverage, or have met the Medicare Part D coverage gap. Once deemed eligible, it takes four to six weeks for meds to reach patients in a 90-day supply.

The majority of OTMDC patients are employed, but either their employers don't offer health insurance, or they offer insurance that is not affordable, the Center's web site explains.

Kwame Osei-Sarfo, 59, a former educator, has used the clinic for nine years. "Before that I was getting medical care through my job," he said. He had an accident two years ago and now claims disability. "My income is not enough to get anything," he said. "I don't know how to express how grateful I am to them. It is like a gift from above."

A York County resident, Osei-Sarfo takes medications for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, lower back pain and acid reflux. The costs for 90-day supplies of Lipitor and Nexium alone add up to more than $2,500. "I couldn't afford to pay even one. There's no way I could have made it," he said.

Average retail prices for 90-day supplies of commonly prescribed drugs range from a low of approximately $545 for Atacand, used for diabetics and hypertensive patients, to almost $5,000 for Valstar, a bladder cancer drug, and more than $6,700 for Atripla for HIV.

The Center receives financial support from local governments, grants and individual donations. More than 30 medical and dental specialists volunteer to cover the more than 1,350 patient visits each month.

For each dollar received in grants, the Center is able to leverage between $23 and $55 in medications, said Mamangakis. "Prescription compliance leads to lower emergency room costs, stable employment, fewer hospital admissions and more consistent disease management," she added.

Salasky can be reached by phone at 757-247-4784.

Need medical care?

What: Olde Towne Medical Center is classified as a Rural Health Center; it serves Williamsburg, James City and York counties. Medical care is provided to those on Medicaid, Medicare, and to the uninsured on a sliding scale. For the uninsured who qualify, medications are provided free of charge through the Medication Access Program. For eligibility, call 757-259-3256; otmcinfo@jamescitycountyva.gov.

Where: 5249 Olde Towne Road, Suite D., Williamsburg.

To donate: Call 757-259-3258; for more information, http://www.oldetownemedicalcenter.org.