GAO reports on industry assistance programs

Pharmaceutical Representative

A recently released report from the General Accounting Office reveals that pharmaceutical industry patient assistance programs cover 48 out of the top 50 most prescribed brand-name drugs. Patient assistance programs are philanthropic efforts by pharmaceutical companies to provide drugs to patients who need but can't afford them. To compile the report, the GAO surveyed 88 companies offering patient assistance programs. Of the 88 companies surveyed, 72 responded to the GAO's questions.

A recently released report from the General Accounting Office reveals that pharmaceutical industry patient assistance programs cover 48 out of the top 50 most prescribed brand-name drugs. Patient assistance programs are philanthropic efforts by pharmaceutical companies to provide drugs to patients who need but can't afford them. To compile the report, the GAO surveyed 88 companies offering patient assistance programs. Of the 88 companies surveyed, 72 responded to the GAO's questions.

The report reveals that pharmaceutical companies provided $500 million worth of prescription drugs to 1.5 million people in 1998. The report also found that pharmaceutical company patient assistance programs offer most of the top prescribed drugs. Read the report: "Our comparison of medications available through patient assistance programs with those most commonly prescribed to the enrollees in the large, state-funded and administered program providing drug assistance to the elderly showed that as of June 2000, drug company assistance programs offered all but two of the 50 most commonly prescribed drugs to the state program's enrollees."

One characteristic that varied from program to program was the way assistance could be requested. Thirty-two of the 72 programs said they distribute application forms through healthcare providers for each provider to use at his or her discretion. Thirty-nine programs reported that an application form must be requested, and one program provides application forms over the Internet.

Distribution differences

The report also revealed differences in the way drugs are distributed through pharmaceutical company patient assistance programs. According to the GAO, more than three-fourths of the companies responding to the survey said that drugs were sent through the patient's provider. Other programs distributed drugs through a voucher or card that allows the patient to receive the necessary drugs through a pharmacy.

Concluded the report: "The patient assistance programs operated by many drug companies may provide valuable assistance to a small share of the uninsured population that complies with program procedures and meets program requirements." PR