We are concerned about the extraordinary costs of cancer treatments and the dire anxiety that comes with the fear that we do not have financial resources to cover the expenses of medications. Fortunately, there is help … from several very dedicated and generous organizations.
I recently spoke with Richard J. Sagall, M.D., the President of Needy Meds, one of the groups that help those who are experiencing financial hardships in paying for their medications. Dr. Sagall, a retired family physician, is committed to informing cancer patients and their loved ones about what help is accessible. He advised the community that some of the listed programs have criteria flexibility so it is wise to call them even if you don’t meet all the eligibility criteria. For help finding assistance, call the Needy Meds Helpline at 800 503 6897.
Dr. Sagall shared with me the following information regarding assistance for patients experiencing cancer pain.
Breakthrough Cancer Pain Assistance by Richard J. Sagall, M.D.
Cancer patients and their caregivers know all too well the potentially debilitating effects of breakthrough cancer pain. One moment, the pains are under good control and the long-acting opioid is working. The next moment, the pain has returned with a vengeance.
To help with the breakthrough pain, pharmaceutical companies have formulated trans-mucosal immediate release fentanyl preparations — TIRFs. These medicines are absorbed quickly, reach peak pain relief fast, and then leave the body … mirroring the path of the breakthrough pain.
TIRF medicines can significantly improve the life of cancer patients, but the relief may come at a cost. Even those fortunate enough to have good health insurance may find the copays a real burden. And for those without health insurance, the costs may be prohibitive.
There are programs that offer financial assistance or free medicines for some of the TIRF medicines. Needy Meds, a nationwide non-profit, is one source of information on these programs. It compiles information on pharmaceutical patient assistance programs that offer assistance based on diagnosis, and many thousands of other programs.
There are two patient assistance programs for TIRF medicines … TEVACares for Fentora and the Subsys Patient Assistance Programs for Subsys. These programs offer free medicine to anyone without health insurance coverage for the drug who meet eligibility criteria. These programs are listed under www.NeedyMeds.org.
Another program, Gain Against Pain, provides copay reimbursement for any analgesic used to treat breakthrough cancer pain. Like the other programs, there are eligibility guidelines to apply.
Dr. Sagall also advised me about another important program HairToStay which helps with the payments for scalp cooling during chemotherapy. Look for that information on the NeedyMeds website.
With immense gratitude to Dr. Sagall for the significant contribution he and his organization are making to assist those who are living with cancer …
An online directory of prescription drug assistance programs.
A free service to help people who don’t have prescription drug coverage find assistance programs. Their mission is to increase awareness of patient assistance programs and boost enrollment of those who are eligible. They offer a single point of access to more than 475 public and private programs, including nearly 200 offered by pharmaceutical companies.
The service is run by a group of drug companies, health care providers, patient advocacy organizations, and community groups. PPA is connected to hundreds of patient assistance programs, including those offered by biopharmaceutical companies. They also have information on free drug discount cards funded by private companies, which can help reduce your costs for certain brand or generic drugs.
If you fill out the online form, your answers are quickly compared to the requirements for the different programs, and you will see a list of programs that might be able to help you. From there, you can download each program’s application form and learn how to apply. Phone and online services are available in Spanish or English.
Your doctor or nurse can also use the website to find programs for you. They may be able to complete the application forms for you and send them by e-mail or fax.
Helps people who cannot afford medicine or health care costs. You can find information about free or discounted medication programs, free or low cost clinics and camps and scholarship programs. They also offer a discount drug card that can provide significant savings on your prescriptions.
Provides information about many drug assistance programs, including some of the same programs as the Partnership for Prescription Assistance, but in a format that might be simpler for some people to use.
NeedyMeds is committed to education. Regularly scheduled webinars are one way that Needy Meds keep their users informed about their organization and relevant health-related topics. Upcoming seminars focus on reducing healthcare costs. Contact Carla at 800 503-6897 or through the website www.needymeds.org.
Reducing Healthcare Costs
Making Medications Affordable
Connecting Underinsured Patients with the Treatment They Need
The United States’ health insurance program for people age 65 or older, although certain younger people with disabilities might also qualify
This federal government website can help you sign up for Medicare and choose the right Medicare-approved prescription drug plan (called the Part D plan) based on where you live, your income, and the drugs you take. You can join a Part D plan during open enrollment if you already have Medicare Part A and/or Part B. If you had prescription coverage and recently lost it, you may be able to enroll at times other than open enrollment.
You may qualify for “Extra Help” if you have very limited income and assets but don’t get Medicaid. If you qualify for Extra Help, you may not have to pay a premium, deductible, or co-payments for Medicare Part D. You can apply or get more information about this by calling Social Security. Some people automatically get Extra Help and don’t need to apply, such as those who get Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or those who already have full Medicaid and Medicare.
If you are enrolled in a state pharmacy assistance program, including Medicaid, you will probably also be enrolled in Medicare Part D. If you have prescription drug coverage through your current health insurance or get discounts on your prescriptions through other programs, review your coverage closely to see if the Medicare drug plan will save you more money on your prescriptions.
If you don’t qualify for Extra Help, Medicare also keeps a list of drugs that are on private prescription drug assistance plans. You can find the list on their website. You can search by the drug name and find details on the programs and their contact information.
A state-run program funded by the federal and state government. It helps people and families who have very limited incomes. Medicaid pays for health care costs, such as doctor visits, hospital visits, and prescription drugs. You can find eligibility requirements and general information at the website above.
Because each state’s Medicaid program is run by that state, income cut-offs, asset limits, and benefits vary from one state to another. In some states, the program may have a different name (TennCare, Medi-Cal, etc.). Contact your State Health Department for more information on requirements and how to apply.
To find your State Health Department, check your local phone book or call the US Department of Health and Human Services at this toll-free number: 1-877-696-6775.
Provided by the National Council on the Aging,
BenefitsCheckUp is an online resource for people age 55 and older who find it hard to pay for their medicines, health care, utilities, food, and other basic needs.
BenefitsCheckUp helps you find state, federal, and private benefits programs where you live. This resource includes programs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
By answering questions about where you live, your income, and your medicines, this service can find drug assistance programs that might work for you. BenefitsCheckUp includes more than 2,000 public and private benefits for things such as prescription drugs, financial assistance, legal assistance, health care and more.
The website also includes other questionnaires that search for programs to help with rent, food, housing, property taxes, and other needs.
The HealthWell Foundation provides financial assistance to eligible individuals to cover coinsurance, copayments, health care premiums and deductibles for certain medications and therapies. If you’ve been prescribed a medication and your insurance company covers it, but you still cannot afford the coinsurance or copayment required, we may be able to assist you by paying for part of your costs associated with the medication. Also, if you are eligible for health insurance, but cannot afford the insurance premium, we may be able to assist with your insurance premiums.