Sunday, November 06, 2005

Health policy: Medicare drug benefits=the end of drug co. charity programs?

Drug companies have touted their charity programs in an effort to improve their image. But as the feds roll out Medicare drug benefits, some patients are being told they must choose between the charity programs and the Medicare drug benefits, as the NYT reports:
Mr. Bach, 65, who is blind, received worrisome news last month from Bristol-Myers Squibb. The free Plavix he gets from the company's charitable foundation will stop if he enrolls in the new Medicare prescription program that begins in January.

Mr. Bach says that his free Plavix, a $125-a-month blood thinner that reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes, is more valuable than the immediate benefits he would receive from signing up for the Medicare program, even taking into account the three inexpensive generic drugs he also takes.

The letter telling Mr. Bach that he must choose between Bristol-Myers's program and the new Medicare drug benefit speaks to an unintended effect that the new Medicare plan is having on the pharmaceutical industry's charity drug programs. Some companies are simply eliminating their charity programs for older people, taking the position that the recipients are now eligible for Medicare drug coverage.

Other drug companies, like Eli Lilly, are discontinuing their charity programs entirely.
Link (free reg req'd)

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