Governor Calls On Pharmaceutical Companies To Continue Free Prescription Drugs Programs

From the Office of Governor John Lynch

CONCORD - Gov. John Lynch has called on seven major pharmaceutical companies to continue their free prescription drug assistance programs for low-income individuals. The companies have notified the state that they are planning to stop offering the assistance because of the creation of the new federal prescription drug program.

" In New Hampshire, we began a prescription assistance program, Medication Bridges, several years ago to assist our seniors and people with disabilities in applying for and receiving the free drugs offered by your company. Medication Bridges serves more than 4,500 citizens and has saved millions of dollars in drug costs for our citizens, " Gov. Lynch wrote.

" Many of the people served by these patient assistance programs are above the income and resource limits for the Medicare Low Income Subsidy - for example, people with incomes between 150% and 200% of poverty. Because they do not qualify for the federal subsidy, these individuals will face out-of-pocket expenses of at least $500 just from the monthly premiums and annual deductible, and not including the 25% coinsurance and potential coverage gap, " Gov. Lynch wrote.

The companies claim that they are eliminating the programs because of guidance from the federal government. However, Gov. Lynch pointed out that in the time since the companies announced plans to halt the assistance programs, the federal government ' s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released a document stating, " There is nothing in the law that prohibits a pharmaceutical company patient assistance program from providing drug assistance to Medicare beneficiaries, even those enrolled in a Medicare prescription drug plan, but that help has to be outside the Medicare coverage - just as it has been until now. "

Gov. Lynch wrote the chief executive officers of Lilly, Takeda Pharmaceuticals North America, Inc., AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP, Purdue, TAP Pharmaceutical Products Inc., Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, and GlaxoSmithKline.

" Pharmaceutical companies launched these assistance programs because (they) recognized that creating these programs made good business sense and good public relations sense, especially as public concerns increased about the rising costs of prescription drugs. None of the reasons that drove the creation of these programs have changed. There are still people who can ' t afford their prescription drugs, and it still makes good public relations, and business sense ... to continue (the) assistance programs, " Gov. Lynch wrote.

" It is vital to our State and our seniors that pharmaceutical companies reconsider decisions to quit providing free drugs to any Part D eligible patients. CMS guidelines should be followed so that these vital patient assistance programs will still be available to our low-income seniors and residents with disabilities. I urge to reconsider your decision and reinstate the patient assistance programs for Part D eligible patients, " Gov. Lynch wrote.

Gov. Lynch has also asked the Congressional delegation to work to extend the May 15th deadline for seniors to enroll in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, and eliminate the penalty for not enrolling by May 15.

As the Medicare Part D law is now written, eligible seniors must enroll by May 15th or pay an additional 1 percent penalty on top of their premiums for every month they delay enrolling.

Figures released by the federal government yesterday show that nearly half, or 88,180 eligible seniors, have yet to enroll.

To read the Governor's letters click here