Anti-cancer drugs in the spotlight
It makes sense that cancer drugs should be at the center of these programs. Oral chemotherapy drugs can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 per month. For Medicare patients with a 20% copay, this equals $2,000. “Most people can’t afford it. Some patients mortgage their homes to pay for cancer drugs. It’s devastating to watch,” says Scott Silverstein, director of pharmacy services at the University of Utah’s Huntsman Cancer Institute.
Silverstein led the drug donation program for Huntsman after the state expanded its drug donation law two years ago to include patients and family members of patients. Huntsman will take an unopened cancer drug in its original bottle. The script must match the number of pills and the donation must be made in person. Donors are required to sign a form certifying that the medicine has been stored correctly and has not been tampered with.
The donated drugs go to cancer patients who are uninsured, on Medicare or Medicaid, or who have private insurance but cannot afford to pay. “The only avenues are to use patient assistance programs and grant funds,” says Silverstein. “Often by the end of the year, the grant funds run out and patients have to pay out of pocket. If they don’t have the money, they give up on getting prescriptions. This is not acceptable. , and that’s why we built this.
Huntsman’s program was put to good use recently when Seattle resident Matt Canham donated his grandfather’s leftover cancer drugs. The drug had successfully treated his grandfather’s prostate cancer, but he died of other causes. Canham found the drugs while cleaning out his grandfather’s things. “I remember him telling me how expensive the pills were and wondering how difficult it would be for people who didn’t have the right insurance,” Canham says. “I found a few bottles of this very expensive drug that hadn’t been opened, and thought there had to be a way it could get to someone who doesn’t have insurance. or the resources my grandfather had.”
The decision is not always easy
Canham’s decision to donate to Huntsman was easy. Not only had his grandfather been treated at the cancer institute, but he was a huge football fan at the University of Utah. For other families, deciding if and where to donate unused medicine may not be so clear. Canham says it’s important that someone knows what medications an unhealthy family member is taking. This person can also decide how best to give or dispose of the medicine. “If I didn’t know what those pills were, I probably wouldn’t have tried to find a place to give them away,” Canham says.
How to Donate Unused Medicines
Step 1: Find a place to donate unused medications. Start with the hospital where your loved one was treated. He may have a program in place to accept medications. You can also check with your local pharmacy, contact your national pharmacy board or get in touch with SIRUM.
Step 2: Make sure your medication is accepted. Most programs have a list of drugs they accept and reject. In any case, the medicine should be sealed in the original bottle. That means no amber bottles you get at the pharmacy. The number of drugs must correspond to the prescription and be stored correctly.
Step 3: Send or deliver the medicine. Depending on where you give the medication, you will mail it or deliver it in person. You will need to fill out a form and you can request a receipt if you are using the donation for a tax deduction.
Step 4: Consider donating medical supplies beyond medicine. Many of these programs accept unexpired medical supplies, new or gently used durable medical equipment, and biomedical devices.