Drug copay assistance keeps patients alive and prices, premiums high: USA Today

“Leonard Rodgers, 80, Tempe, Arizona, gets help with the cost of his expensive prescriptions from non-profit Good Days,” Jayne O’Donnell, David Robinson, Ken Alltucker and Liz Freeman write over at the USA TODAY Network. “He talks about how he would be bankrupt in a few months if it wasn’t for the financial assistance. Copayment assistance groups, created to help patients with the increasingly higher price of drugs to treat medical conditions, are under investigation by federal authorities for possibly skewing the cost of health care to favor drug companies. The  investigations, noted by several drugmakers in their regulatory filings, are slowing contributions to at least two of these assistance groups, charities that sometimes pay top executives salaries of $300,000 or more.  Critics of these groups, such as Patients for Affordable Drugs founder David Mitchell, say they drive up the cost of health care by masking the price of drugs and forcing higher costs on the insurance companies that pass them along to consumers and employers. Copayments are the part of drug bills that insurers require consumers to pay to make them aware of the true cost of medication and encourage them to seek cheaper alternatives such as generic medications.   The money to pay for the groups’ support of patients comes almost entirely from the drug companies themselves or other charities they fund.  ‘These groups are a marketing arm of pharma, and the fact that patients are caught in the middle of all this is disgusting,’ Mitchell says. ‘Patients shouldn’t have to live month to month, at the mercy of the drug companies.’ Supporters include Leonard Rodgers, a Tempe, Ariz., patient with an incurable blood cancer. The group Good Days has had his share of two drugs that have kept him alive and cost more than $200,000 a year. ‘If I end up paying for this, I’d have to liquidate all my assets within five years,’ said Rodgers, 80, who relies on Social Security and a modest income from non-profit charity work.” Jayne O’Donnell, David Robinson, Ken Alltucker and Liz Freeman, “Drug copay assistance keeps patients alive and prices, premiums high.” USA TODAY Network.