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For immediate release – Tuesday, September 22, 2009.
Contact:
Iowa Attorney Generalís Office: Bill Roach, 515-281-5536.

Medication Voucher Program: David J. Fries,
Iowa Prescription Drug Corporation, 515-327-5405.

Corrections Drug Purchasing Study: Tom Temple,
Iowa Pharmacy Association, 515-240-4236.

Drug Company Payments Fund Prescription Drug Program for Lower-Income Iowans

Attorney General Tom Miller says a new $420,000 program will help thousands of Iowans obtain medications for an out-of-pocket cost of just $3 per prescription.

Des Moines, Iowa, Sept. 22, 2009. A new Iowa Medication Voucher Program to help lower-income Iowans has been created with funds paid by two pharmaceutical benefit manager companies for alleged consumer fraud violations, Attorney General Tom Miller said Tuesday.

“This program will use $420,000 paid by the companies to provide thousands of lower-income Iowans with a 90-day supply of certain medications for an out-of-pocket cost of just $3 per prescription,” Miller said. “The program will pay the remaining cost of the drugs.”

To use the program, eligible Iowans will need to obtain a voucher, present it with a prescription to a participating Iowa pharmacy, and pay a $3 co-pay. Details are available below— or go to www.iowapdc.org for information on who is eligible, what drugs are covered by the program, where to obtain vouchers, and which pharmacies are participating.

The Attorney General’s Office awarded $420,000 in settlement funds to the Iowa Prescription Drug Corporation to create the new Iowa Medication Voucher Program. The program will help eligible lower-income Iowans pay for medications for high blood pressure, diabetes, elevated cholesterol, depression and pregnancy prenatal care. The program will fund up to 52,000 prescriptions.

The Iowa Prescription Drug Corporation is a not-for-profit organization that administers programs designed to help ease the financial burden of the high cost of prescription medications for uninsured and under-insured Iowans. The corporation already contracts with the Iowa Dept. of Public Health to operate the Iowa Prescription Drug Donation Repository Program, among other programs.

“Almost 300,000 Iowans do not have health insurance,” Miller said. “That’s about one Iowan in ten. Many more Iowans have insurance that covers only catastrophic illness or accident, with very limited pharmacy options. I am excited to use these funds to help a large number of Iowans who need the help for themselves and their families.”

“The cost of medications is continuing to increase, and many chronic conditions require multiple medications,” said Dr. Bery Engebretsen, Clinical Consultant for the Iowa / Nebraska Primary Care Association. “As a result, too many Iowans are delaying the purchase of medications or skipping doses to extend their supply. It is risky to delay or skip doses of needed treatment. We want to use these funds to help Iowans maintain their health.”

Pharmacy Program Benefits:

Under the pharmacy benefit program announced today, eligible Iowans will be able to purchase a 90-day supply of covered medications for a co-pay of $3 per prescription. The program covers 17 generic prescription medications for five diseases or conditions: high blood pressure, diabetes, elevated cholesterol, depression, and pregnancy prenatal care. Approximately 52,000 prescriptions are expected to be filled with current funding.

How The Program Works:

The program began operation on a trial basis in three counties in July and is now ready for operation statewide. At this time, vouchers have been distributed to a point of contact in 54 counties who will in turn distribute the vouchers in those counties. “Our goal is to make the program available in all 99 Iowa counties,” said David Fries, Executive Director of the Iowa Prescription Drug Corporation.

“Our goal in designing this program was to not only provide needed help to a large number of Iowans but also to help strengthen the network of providers that provide services,” Fries said. The prescription drug voucher program will operate in conjunction with the Iowa Collaborative Safety Net Provider Network, a legislatively-created partnership of Iowa community health centers, free clinics, family planning clinics and rural health clinics. Many of the organizations will serve as distribution points for the vouchers, along with county relief offices, hospitals, county boards of health and pharmacies.

Ted Boesen, Executive Director of the Iowa / Nebraska Primary Care Association, said: “The safety net providers frequently see the need for this kind of assistance for the people who come to us for care. Oftentimes the difference of a few dollars means the difference between taking a needed drug and not taking it.”

How to Apply:

In order to fill a prescription at the discounted rate, a voucher and a valid prescription good for 90 days must be presented to any participating Iowa pharmacy located in 94 Iowa counties. The consumer will be asked to pay the $3 co-pay, and the remaining cost will be paid by the program.

To obtain a voucher, Iowans can inquire at their local safety net provider including community health centers, free clinics, family planning clinics and rural health clinics. They may also contact their county board of health.

For more information, go to the Iowa Prescription Drug Corporation web site at www.iowapdc.org. Click on the Iowa Voucher Program link to locate the county coordinator or “point of contact” for each county, as well as participating pharmacies and the list of medications available.

To be eligible for the program individuals must be uninsured or under-insured or have an annual income less than 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. Local boards of health and county relief offices are being asked to determine hardship cases if the individual cannot afford the $3 co-pay. In those cases, the Iowa Prescription Drug Corporation will fill the prescription and mail it to the consumer at no cost. The IPDC also will fill prescriptions for the small number of counties where there is no participating pharmacy.

A Second Program Will Study Drug Purchasing by the State Department of Corrections:

In addition to the prescription drug voucher program, an award of $50,000 was made to the Iowa Pharmacy Foundation to fund an evaluation of the purchasing, distribution and use of pharmaceutical drugs in the Iowa Department of Corrections. This study will be conducted by the Iowa Pharmacy Foundation in cooperation with the department and the University of Iowa College of Pharmacy.

“Lawmakers have noted that, with a drug budget of nearly $10 million, the Department of Corrections is a huge purchaser of prescription drugs,” Miller said. “We believe that a thorough study by qualified pharmacists and other experts will help ensure that taxpayers get the most from those dollars.”

Tom Temple, CEO of the Iowa Pharmacy Foundation, said, “The study will look to ensure that best practices are used in the purchase, distribution and use of drugs for the state prisons. In particular, we will look at special pricing options, group purchasing, automated drug distribution systems, and improved performance measures.”

Funding Comes from Two Lawsuits Filed by Miller’s Office:

Miller explained that funding for the two initiatives comes from two cases his office resolved last year involving “PBMs,” or pharmacy benefits management companies. PBMs are companies that specialize in administering pharmacy or prescription drug benefits for plans provided by employers, government agencies, health plans, unions, and other entities, in return for payment.

Miller’s office received a total of $470,000 from the settlement of two lawsuits filed by his office and other states against Caremark Rx and EIS (Express Scripts). The settlements order the companies to change certain business practices and also to make payments to the states to be used to benefit purchasers of prescription drugs. Iowa’s share of the of the Caremark settlement was $370,502 and its share of the Express Scripts settlement was $100,000. [Go to Caremark release, Feb. 14, 2008.]

Attorney General Tom Miller said: “We alleged that the companies engaged in deceptive business practices by encouraging doctors to switch patients to different brand-name prescription drugs and representing that the patients or health plans would save money, when in fact the switch would result in higher costs to patients and plans.”

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Key link to more information:

Go to www.iowapdc.org for overall information on the program (click on “Medication Voucher Program”).  There you will find links to:

  • a county-by-county list of “points of contact” to obtain vouchers,

  • a county-by-county list of participating pharmacies,

  • a “formulary” or list of prescription drugs covered by this program, and

  • a chart showing income eligibility requirements.