Patient assistance programs are providing free medications, expanding patient support services and increasing access to care as a way to help millions of patients struggling to pay the bills during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The charitable programs supported by America’s biopharmaceutical companies provide patients with free or nearly free access to medications and treatments, regardless of whether patients have health insurance.
“Many patients have lost their jobs and, consequently, their health insurance,” explains Terry Wilcox, executive director of Patients Rising NOW, a national patient advocacy non-profit organization that helps patients overcome access barriers. “Patient assistance programs are a vital lifeline for millions of patients that need continued access to their medication.”
Amgen, AbbVie, Bristol Meyers Squibb, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Eli Lily, Biogen, and other drug manufacturers have all announced charitable efforts to help patients struggling from the economic uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2015, patient assistance programs contributed more than $5.7 billion in support to patients. The programs come in different forms: direct access to medicines, cash subsidies, and co-pay coupons to reduce a patient’s out-of-pocket costs at the pharmacy counter.
“Whether you have health insurance or not, patient assistance programs can be a vital lifeline for all patients, especially patients living with rare diseases and chronic conditions,” explains Wilcox of Patients Rising.
Bristol Myers Squibb Offers Free Medicine to Unemployed Patients
As part of its expanded assistance to patients in need, Bristol Myers Squibb will provide patients who’ve lost their jobs with any branded Bristol Myers Squibb medicine for free.
“As more patients face difficult decisions in their daily lives, it is important to continue their treatments,” said Giovanni Caforio, M.D., chairman and chief executive officer, Bristol Myers Squibb.
Another perk: Patients won’t have to suffer through the usual insurance red tape and paperwork nightmare. The company says that patients can receive immediate access via a single point of entry and streamlined enrollment process.
Patients seeking assistance are encouraged to call Bristol Myers Squibb patient support program at (800) 721-8909 or by visiting BMS.com. Additional information on available medications can be found here.
Eli Lily Announces $35 Insulin
To help patients living with diabetes, Eli Lilly is offering to fill insulin prescriptions for just $35 per month. The Lilly Insulin Value Program will be available to patients with health insurance as well as patients without insurance coverage.
“People with commercial insurance, as well as those without insurance at all, are eligible, and the process is quick and simple,” said Mike Mason, president, Lilly Diabetes. “We want people who need help to call us.”
Patients interested in the program should call the Lilly Diabetes Solution Center at (833) 808-1234. The company says that most discount cards are processed with 24 hours by email. Patients that already have a co-pay card from the Lilly Diabetes Solution Center will automatically receive the $35 co-pay.
Pfizer Donates $40 Million in Charitable Grants, Expands Patient Assistance Programs
Pfizer through its Pfizer Foundation has committed $40 million in medical and charitable cash grants to help combat the global health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“At Pfizer, we believe it is our responsibility to help protect the most vulnerable from this disease and are putting the full weight of our resources behind our comprehensive COVID-19 response,” said Caroline Roan, President of The Pfizer Foundation.
The company has also expanded its existing patient assistance program, Pfizer RxPathways, by increasing the program’s supply of medication and accepting telehealth prescriptions. To access Pfizer’s patient assistance program, visit pfizerrxpathways.com or call 1-844-989-7284.
Amgen: $12.5 Million Pledge to COVID-19 Relief
Amgen through its Amgen Foundation has announced a $12.5 million pledge towards COVID-19 relief efforts and emergency response programs.
“Our hope is that this commitment will help organizations on the front lines address urgent needs as we begin to better understand the longer-term needs of our communities,” said Amgen Chairman and CEO Robert A. Bradway.
Amgen is also assisting patients through its patient assistance program, Amgen Safety Net Foundation. To learn about how to apply, visit https://www.amgensafetynetfoundation.com/how-to-apply.html or call 1-888-762-6436.
Johnson & Johnson Commits $50 Million for Front-line Medical Workers
In addition to direct assistance to patients, biopharmaceutical companies have also donated hundreds of millions of dollars to support COVID-19 relief efforts.
Johnson & Johnson, which helped respond to 1918 Spanish flu outbreak, has committed $50 million to support front-line health workers battling COVID-19.
“Those at the front lines are our colleagues, family members, customers and partners—so we join the millions around the world who put them front and center right now, to support them as they provide care amidst Covid-19,” said Michael Sneed, Executive Vice President at Johnson & Johnson.
AbbVie Donates $35 Million to Support Hospitals
In March, AbbVie announced a $35 million donation to support hospitals and front-line healthcare workers with essential supplies and medical equipment. The charitable support will allow International Medical Corps to deploy 20 mobile field hospitals throughout the country to relieve overburdened hospitals and emergency rooms.
“AbbVie’s extraordinary and swift support means that health workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. will have more resources to save lives in the fight against this dangerous disease,” said Nancy Aossey, president and CEO of International Medical Corps.