Drug company assistance programs can come with too many hassles

LETTER — Posted March 7, 2005

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Regarding "Iowa practice draws notice for its 'no-gift' policy" (Article, Feb. 14): I share the conviction of the physicians quoted in your article that the intensive marketing programs of the drug manufacturers waste physician time and misuse financial resources that might better be applied to reducing drug costs to patients. However, I do not feel that the drug company assistance programs as they currently exist are a viable solution for patients who cannot afford medications that are more expensive here than in numerous other countries.

Recently, my nurse and I spent in excess of three hours completing paperwork and juggling medications so that one patient could receive some semblance of the same eight medications that she was already taking. Each company has a different form to complete, and not all programs will admit new patients (we had to change several medications for that reason). It appears to me that the process was designed to discourage doctors from participating, thus limiting the drug companies' cost for assistance.

Perhaps the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America needs to encourage its members to develop a cooperative program and a single, simple form for physicians to complete. I also think that the manufacturers need to divert just a small fraction of the financial and human resources that they spend for marketing to running such a program.

Alan Weamer, MD, Davison, Mich.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2005/03/07/edlt0307.htm.

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