Cheaper Meds for ME/CFS:the Pandora/NeedyMeds Webinar

May 6, 2012

Posted by Cort Johnson

NeedyMeds could help some ME/CFS patients save a substantial amount of money on drug costs

Taking a Big Hit- The CDC found that the average family containing someone with chronic fatigue syndrome took about a $15,000 hit yearly in medical costs, lost wages etc…and that about 1/4 of medical costs were paid directly out of pocket. .. It’s clear that many families are hit hard financially by ME/CFS and anything they can do to shave costs would be a big help.

Lessening That Hit - In a recent webinar Pandora teamed up with NeedyMeds, a non-profit organization dedicated to finding ways people can save money on medications, to illuminate some interesting options.(The program is mostly for ‘low income’ patient but a quick glance at the programs indicated that families with under $100,000 in income can participate in some of them.) Since 1997 NeedyMeds has developed a variety of impressive databases that track a variety of drug and health assistance programs and it provides its own drug discount card. I had never heard of NeedyMeds before but the potential for savings appears to be large.

Cost Savings with Patient Assistance Programs (PAPS)

The Patient Assistance Programs (PAP) are at the heart of the NeedyMeds site. Pharmaceutical companies or patient support groups have created these programs provide drugs free or at discounts to people with low incomes or no insurance coverage. Each company and each drug has its own unique ‘program’ and NeedyMeds lists over 500 of them. Federal Poverty Level Income calculators, present on the right hand side of each drug information section, help people determine if they fit the criteria for some of the drugs.

Checking Your Drug – Finding out if a drug has a program associated with it is easy…simply click on the Brand Name or Generic Drug categories to bring up the drug you’re interested in and then click on the drug to bring up the programs associated with it. From there NeedyMeds provides direct links to the companies program pages where the application forms can be found.

  • Valtrex (valaycylovir), for instance, can taken in such large amounts for such long periods of time that it can be prohibitively expensive for ME/CFS patients yet two programs are available for it, one of which has no income restrictions and one which requires incomes under $45,000/year. (One is a pharmacy that provides discounts to lower-income patients and another is an organization that provides 25-40% off for patients with its discount card).
  • Rituximab (Rituxian) – needs more study in ME/CFS but even if it does work out it’s high cost has appeared to put it out of reach of most patients. NeedyMeds, however, lists five Rituximab cost-cutting programs from four different companies/groups, which require incomes below $100,000 (gross household), or at less than 400% of the federal poverty level (See the FPL tracker on the right hand side of the page) and may or may not have insurance.

NeedyMeds offers a free drug discount card

The NeedyMed Drug Discount Card

Another way to save is to use NeedyMeds free Drug Discount Card which is accepted at all major chains. You cannot use this card if you use your insurance plan but you can use it if it offers a better deal than your insurance plan does. There are no income restrictions. NeedyMeds provides a search function to find participating pharmacies near you. FAQ’s about the card can be found here.

Other drug discount cards (by Pfizer, Rx Access, Glaxo-Smith Kline, Medicare Plan D Enrollees) can be found here.

Drug Coupons 

Drug coupons are a quick way to save money. To find out if a coupon is available go here or click on the name of a drug and then look for a green coupon button; click on it to see what coupon is available.

 The Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Page

PANDORA teamed up with NeedyMeds to provide a Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Resource Page that lists many of the drugs ME/CFS patients take (the list is still being updated).

State Run Programs

NeedyMeds also provides listing of state run assistance programs for low income patients. In California, for instance, it lists 21 programs that offer help for pregnant women, people with AIDS, breast or cervical cancer, prostate cancer, people who need medical equipment, low-cost health insurance, etc

Lost Cost Clinics

NeedyMeds also provides a program to find low-cost clinics in the US. In my zipcode it showed a free clinic called “Volunteers in Medicine of Southern Nevada’ which accepted under and uninsured people with low income and gave its location, phone number and website address.

Conclusion – NeedyMeds provides an impressive array of resources that should be able to help some people with ME/CFS save a substantial amount of money on their drugs. Kudo’s to Pandora for teaming up with NeedyMeds to bring them to the ME/CFS communities attention.

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