Patient Assistance Programs Give Away More Money than Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
America’s largest charitable endeavor might surprise you.
In 2015, just a dozen patient assistance programs gave away a combined $5.7 billion in charitable support to help patients access life-saving medical care, according to data from the Foundation Center. That combined total represented the largest charitable giving in America and even eclipsed the $3.8 billion given away by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation over the same period.
“Patient assistance programs are absolutely critical,” says Terry Wilcox, executive director at Patients Rising, a patient advocacy non-profit organization that helps patients address access to treatment issues and overcome insurance obstacles.
The scale of patient assistance programs is staggering:
- 10 of the Top 20 charitable foundations in the United States were patient assistance programs.
- More than 36 million uninsured or underinsured patients obtained necessary medications via these programs over the last decade.
- Approximately one in five prescriptions are filled using patient assistance programs.
“When insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers block access, patient assistance programs step in and provide patients with life-saving treatment,” Wilcox adds.
Patient Assistance and Prescription Access Programs
Patient assistance and prescription access programs help patients obtain free or nearly free medicines. These programs come in different forms – some provide subsidies to needy patients, others offer free or discounted products, product coupons, and copayment assistance.
“The only cheaper option for patients like me is not taking medication at all,” explains Jordan Green, a Texas patient living with multiple sclerosis, who has participated in a co-pay assistance program. “To help offset this cost, many patients like me receive what’s known as copay assistance in the form of coupons or financial assistance from drug manufacturers. This makes each copay less expensive.”
Researchers at the University of Southern California Schaeffer Center for Health Policy & Economics concluded that patient assistance programs “help patients afford therapies without good alternatives.”
In some cases, patient assistance programs write a check directly to patients.
When patient Kip Burgess ran into an insurance barrier at the pharmacy counter, Amgen overnighted him a check for nearly $3,000. Kaiser Health News reports that “Amgen, the maker of Burgess’ arthritis medicine, provides up to $12,000 of copay assistance each year to commercially insured Enbrel patients who need help meeting out-of-pocket expenses, often regardless of the patient’s financial status.”
“Insurance coverage isn’t health care,” stresses Wilcox of Patients Rising. “So many patients with great health insurance are burdened by insurance barriers and high out-of-pocket costs.”
Programs Help Patients with Insurance
Unlike other health care assistance programs, many patient assistance programs help patients with health insurance. More than half of rheumatoid arthritis patients access their treatments with the help of copay coupons, according to Stanford University research.
“Now, Americans who have insurance are increasingly turning to charity as a lifeline,” the Los Angeles Times reports, “as a revolution in health insurance has driven up deductibles more than threefold over the last decade, forcing tens of millions of Americans to delay care and make difficult sacrifices to pay medical bills.”
Patient assistance programs also help patients access the most effective, cutting-edge treatments. A 2018 study by the USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy & Economics found that a majority of co-pay assistance was directed to patients seeking treatments for which there was no generic substitute
“If you have a chronic disease like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, or Crohn’s disease, there’s a good chance you’re shelling out big bucks to keep up with your drug regimen,” writes Barabara Brody with Creaky Joints. “One way to ease your financial burden: Sign up for a copay assistance card.”
Top 10 Patient Assistance Programs in the United States
|The Abbvie Patient Assistance Foundation||$ 853,356,401|
|Johnson & Johnson Patient Assistance Foundation, Inc.||$ 787,776,687|
|The Bristol-Myers Squibb Patient Assistance Foundation, Inc.||$ 619,573,888|
|Sanofi Foundation for North America||$ 617,927,313|
|Merck Patient Assistance Program, Inc.||$ 566,675,598|
|Novartis Patient Assistance Foundation, Inc.||$ 542,136,898|
|Genentech Access To Care Foundation||$ 495,979,664|
|Pfizer Patient Assistance Foundation, Inc.||$ 446,674,762|
|Lilly Cares Foundation, Inc.||$ 408,239,166|
|GlaxoSmithKline Patient Access Programs Foundation||$ 386,459,002|
Where Patients Can Get Help
PAN Foundation: The PAN Foundation offers nearly 70 disease-specific assistance programs to help patients pay for their out-of-pocket costs, such as deductibles, co-pays and coinsurance, travel expenses and health insurance premiums. Click on the names of the funds to see which funds are currently accepting applications, what type of assistance is available and whether you are eligible for a grant based on your type of health insurance coverage and household income.
NeedyMeds, Inc: This online database provides financial assistance programs by drug brand name, generic name or program name. It also provides information on resources by state, such as application assistance, low-cost clinics, and other programs.
Partnership for Prescription Assistance: The Partnership for Prescription Assistance offers a single point of access for people who qualify to more than 475 public and private patient assistance programs, including nearly 200 programs offered by pharmaceutical companies.
RxHope: RxHope directly manages patient financial assistance programs for pharmaceutical companies of all sizes. You can search for medications by brand name and also find various assistance programs available to patients.
Amgen Assistance Programs: Information regarding coverage, reimbursement support services, patient resources and financial assistance programs supported by Amgen.
Pfizer Assistance Programs: Pfizer RxPathways connects eligible patients to a range of assistance programs that offer insurance support, co-pay help, and medicines for free or at a savings.
Gilead Advancing Access Co-pay Program: If eligible, the Gilead Advancing Access co-pay coupon card may help you save on your co-pays. This site can help you enroll in the co-pay program and activate or replace your co-pay coupon card. If you would like to speak to someone directly, please call 1-877-505-6986.
CancerCare Co-Payment Assistance Foundation: The CancerCare Co-Payment Assistance Foundation offers patients living with cancer assistance towards co-payments for chemotherapy and targeted treatments. We offer easy to access, same day approval over the phone or online.