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Southern Medical Journal:
doi: 10.1097/SMJ.0b013e31818bbe5e
Original Article

Pharmaceuticals Companies’ Medication Assistance Programs: Potentially Useful but Too Burdensome to Use?

Pisu, Maria PhD; Richman, Joshua MD, PhD; Allison, Jeroan J. MD; Williams, O Dale MPH, PhD; Kiefe, Catarina I. MD, PhD

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Objectives: This study examined how physicians perceive pharmaceutical companies’ medication assistance programs (MAPs).

Methods: The study was conducted using a survey of 373 primary care physicians from four southern states; they were surveyed within the formative evaluation phase of a larger study (MI-Plus). Respondents were queried about use and usefulness of MAPs for patients who cannot afford drugs, and barriers to using them. Bivariate associations between physician-level variables (patients without drug coverage) and usefulness and barriers to using MAPs were assessed using Chi square tests. Independence of associations was assessed using multiple logistic regressions.

Results: Of the 364 (97.6%) respondents who used MAPs, 70% used them regularly, the rest occasionally; 63% found MAPs very useful in caring for patients who could not afford drugs. About 89% reported one or more barriers to using MAPs; 47% saw “inability of patients to apply directly;” and 57% saw “enrollment process being time-consuming for staff” as barriers. Compared to physicians with fewer elderly patients without drug coverage, those with more of these patients were less likely to find MAPs very useful; less likely to report no barriers to using MAPs; and more likely to see “low income thresholds” and “inability of patients to apply directly” as barriers.

Conclusion: While MAPs are considered useful in caring for patients in need of assistance, there are many barriers to their use. Pharmaceutical companies should address these barriers. Limitations include a low response rate (about 10%).

Key Points

* Pharmaceutical companies’ medication assistance programs (MAPs) are part of the industry’s philanthropic efforts and provide medications to eligible patients at no or reduced cost.

* Several aspects of the enrollment process are perceived to be barriers to using MAPs, particularly for physicians with more patients in need of these programs.

* If philanthropy is the goal, pharmaceutical companies should address the barriers faced by physicians’ offices in using MAPs, eg, revisiting the income thresholds that are considered by many to be too low, or simplifying the enrollment.

© 2009 by the Southern Medical Association


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