Free medication

Donated pharmaceuticals could be more accessible, study says.

Pharmaceutical companies offer free medications to low-income people who do not have drug coverage, but a new study says barriers limit the potential reach of the help.

Funded by the California Health Care Foundation, and published in the April 1 issue of the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, the study surveyed health providers from clinics that serve predominantly low-income populations.

It found that two in three clinics that do not take advantage of free drug programs say compliance is too complex and takes too much time, cutting into patient care.

Clinics surveyed say unannounced changes in program requirements are a problem, the study says, and requirements for documenting income levels are unrealistic, particularly for people who are homeless or who severely mentally ill.

The pharmaceutical industry could overcome these barriers by developing consistent eligibility requirements and application processes, the study says.

Drug companies with which clinics most often work include Pfizer, Bristol Myers Squibb and Merck, while GlaxoWellcome, Novartis and Schering-Plough were described by the study as more difficult to work with.

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