(The following information is from the office of N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper.)
CHARLOTTE, NC - Help is on the way for North Carolinians who can't afford their prescriptions, Attorney General Roy Cooper announced today.
"Too many people in this state are having to make the difficult and dangerous choice between paying their bills and paying for their prescriptions," Cooper said. "We want to help low-income people get the medications they need."
Cooper and the North Carolina Association of Free Clinics are starting a program to give low-income uninsured and underinsured North Carolinians access to needed prescription drugs. The project will create a mail-order central pharmacy to provide medications donated by pharmaceutical companies to clinics, county health departments, rural health centers, and other health care providers.
The initial year-long pilot program, run by non-profit pharmacy MedAssist of Mecklenburg, will use a grant of $873,000 from Cooper's office to serve residents in two North Carolina counties as well as at seven other clinics located in Matthews, Huntersville, Raleigh, Lumberton, Albemarle, Forest City and Highlands. The two pilot counties will be selected in consultation with the NC Office of Rural Health. The program is expected to begin enrolling participants within the next few weeks.
The program will expand to a total of at least five counties by April 2010 with the goal of taking the program statewide in phases. Expansion of the program next year will be funded by an additional grant of $1.4 million from the Attorney General's Office. Funds for the project come from North Carolina's share of multi-state settlements Cooper won involving prescription drugs.
"We're thankful for this support from the North Carolina State Attorney General's office," said Jason Baisden, executive director of the NC Association of Free Clinics. "The central fill pharmacy program will help bridge the gap for the thousands of uninsured and underinsured North Carolinians who struggle to buy medications necessary to maintain their health, go to work and provide for their families."
Needy patients can currently get free prescriptions from drug manufacturers but must contact each company separately, a time-consuming and often complicated process. A central pharmacy can keep both brand name and generic drugs in stock, making it easier and faster for patients to get necessary medications.
During just the first year of the project, MedAssist estimates that it will be able to fill 40,000 prescriptions valued at more than $2 million for needy North Carolinians.
"MedAssist of Mecklenburg is privileged and excited to be the central fill pharmacy providing life-saving prescriptions for uninsured, low-income residents," said Lori Giang, executive director of MedAssist. "This program will enable many North Carolinians to get the medication they need to have an active, healthy and productive life."