ME/CFS can take a heavy toll on your bank balance. A CDC study indicated that US ME/CFS patients typically pay a quarter of their health costs out-of-pocket.
Many countries have programs for buying medications that can save you a bundle – if you can find them. In the US, for example, pharmaceutical companies provide over $1.5 billion a year in discounted medications but many who are eligible miss out.
Here we look at schemes in the US and UK but outside these countries, it’s well worth investigating what’s on offer.
The drug discount programs below focus on help for low and moderate income families, people with no or poor insurance coverage or donut holes in their insurance coverage. (‘Low income’ can be something of a misnomer; families under $100,000 can sometimes participate in these programs.)
NeedyMeds will probably be the first stop on your journey to get lower drug costs. A non-profit organization dedicated to helping people save on their drug and health costs, NeedyMeds provides information on 1,000’s of discount drug programs sponsored by drug companies, pharmacies and patient support organizations. NeedyMeds also produces its own Drug Discount card and has information on low-income clinics, state aid programs. ME/CFS nonprofit PANDORA Org teamed up with NeedyMeds to produce an information video about its money-saving features.
The Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA) is a program funded by pharmaceutical companies which provides an easy, stream-lined approach to finding free and reduced cost drugs for eligible patients. The program is free and confidential and provides information on over 2,500 brand name drugs as well as information on over 10,000 free clinics in the U.S. The program is endorsed by a variety of groups including the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Cancer Society, American College of Emergency Physicians, Easter Seals, National Association of Chain Drug Stores, United Way and the Urban League.
Rx Outreach is a non-profit organization that offers over 400 medications through their mail-order pharmacy for low income individuals and families.
RX Access provides savings to low income people on hundreds of prescriptions through their RxAccess drug discount card. Enrollment is open to people with ‘low incomes’, who are not eligible for Medicare and who lack prescription drug coverage.
Health Assist Rx – if you earn less than $2,000 month (single) or $3,000 month (couple) Health Assist Rx can become the go-between between you and the companies that provide free drugs. Health Assist Rx will help fill out your applications properly and ensure that you remain eligible and do not miss shipments. Since the drugs are free, the total cost to you for the program is a setup fee ($25) and a $15 per month per medication charge. RxAssist was created by a nonprofit organization called Volunteers in Health Care which is associated with Brown University.
RxHope provides applications physicians, nurses and social workers fill out and send to the appropriate program.
Xubex provides a variety of programs (discounted, free and co-pay) to reduce the costs of generic and brand name drugs. Their discount card is free and has no enrollment restrictions.
The Drug Assistant Drug Discount Card – assists people with limited or no prescription drug coverage to get discounts on drugs.
The Medicare D program serves people on Medicare unable to afford their medications and contains many options for reducing co-pays on drugs.
RxAssist has a list of state drug discount programs here.
People with certain medical conditions can get free NHS prescriptions if they hold a valid medical exemption certificate. To qualify, you must have one of a number of medical conditions or — importantly for ME/CFS — “a continuing physical disability which means you cannot go out without the help of another person”.
If you regularly use NHS prescriptions, prepay prescriptions can save you a lot of money: it’s a bit like a prescription season ticket. A single prescription currently costs £8.20, but a three-month prepay certificate costs £29.10, and a year’s costs £104 – and once you have it, it covers all your prescriptions in that time. As a rule of thumb, prepay certificates tickets save money for people who use more than one prescription a month.
Generally speaking, you may find it cheaper to buy a generic version of some over-the-counter medicine rather than to use your NHS prescription. Just ask at the pharmacist’s counter.