According to a recent Gallup Poll the U.S. unemployment rate is 9.0%. If you have diabetes and are unemployed then this may be a tough year. Not only is unemployment affecting the ability of many patients to adequately care for their health, but Gallup also reported that more American adults lacked health insurance coverage last year than in any year since 2008…”climbing to 17.1% in 2011.” Nearly 20% of all Americans DON’T have health insurance.
In light of this travesty, and because so many people on diabetes 24-7 Facebook page ask for advice on where to get medical supplies because they are unemployed, broke or without healthcare insurance, it was time to look into what types of assistance are available from the manufacturers of diabetes supplies, like insulin and test strips. The results are surprising.
Novo Nordisk comes out on top, as does Eli Lilly and Sanofi-aventis as all three insulin makers have Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs). The blood glucose meter companies are a rather mixed bag. Abbott and Accu-Check are tops for having a program – all the others offer discounts, a one-off free pack of strips (25-50) or a free meter as a way to get patients on-board. Not great for those companies who do nothing to help; they should be rated on a public “giving scale.”
PJ Dew, a recently diagnosed type-1 patient, agreed to discuss her experience with the pharmaceutical companies on getting free insulin. PJ was diagnosed with type 1 at age 40 because of an acute episode of Pancreatitis; she had a Positive GAD test, which meant she wasn’t type 2. PJ is a veteran, paramedic, and currently employed as a nurse. Unfortunately when she was diagnosed, PJ had just started her new job, which meant her health insurance wouldn’t kick in for 90 days. With a bill over $15,000, she didn’t know what to do.
What PJ found out was her hospital, the Metropolitan Hospital in Byron Center, Michigan, had financial aid for the uninsured, and they gave PJ grants for all consultations, lab work, diabetes education and all medical supplies (test strips, insulin and consumables). What’s more, her doctor introduced PJ to a program where all her insulin is shipped to her for free from the insulin manufacturers.
PJ participated in two programs with the assistance of her doctor. The first came from the Novo Nordisk Patient Assistance Program, which provides medication to qualifying applicants at no charge. According to the Novo website, “If the applicant qualifies under the Novo Nordisk PAP guidelines, a three-month (3 month) supply of the requested medication(s) or device(s) will be shipped to the applicant’s licensed practitioner for dispensing.” PJ also qualified for patient assistance with Sanofi-aventis. PJ volunteered to answer a few questions about her experience.
1. How did you find out about Patient Assistance?
The information was given to me by the diabetes educator at the hospital. She had forms for me and my doctor to fill out. The ability to participate in the program is income based, but Novo Nordisk did state that if you have your doctor write a note that states current financial status does not represent patient need, they will give you the free insulin. A representative from Novo Nordisk said they won’t turn anyone away.
2. How did you qualify?
I had to fill out the paperwork (only about 1-2 pages) and provide a copy of my last year’s tax return. Then, I took it to my doctor and had him fill out and sign his part. (Yes, he gets a copy of your tax return!) Novo Nordisk requires that the packet be faxed from the doctor’s office fax number or you can send the entire thing snail mail yourself, which takes longer.
3. What did they provide?
From Novo Nordisk, I received free pen needles, free Novolog, and free glucagon. They also have the 70/30 mixes, Humulin-N, Humulin-R, Levemir, and a few others that I can’t remember. From Sanofi, I received free Lantus. You can get vials or pens. It doesn’t matter, whatever your doctor prescribes, they’ll send it to you.
4. How was it delivered or given to you?
Novo Nordisk and Sanofi-Aventis deliver a 3-month supply to my doctor’s office. The doctor’s office would then call and let me know it was there. After 2 months, both companies sent a reminder that it was time to reorder.
5. How long did they provide the insulin?
They provided it to me for 1-year which is how long I needed it. They will provide it free to you as long as you require.
6. How positive was the experience?
Very positive. Both companies really worked hard to get me what I needed.
7. How difficult was it to apply and process?
The process is not difficult at all. The doctor actually has a bit more to fill out than you. My doctor is so very “awesome” and had it done in about 1/2 hour after I dropped it off at his office. He actually cares that much!!
8. Did you wait a long time for the service to start?
It took no time at all-within two days of faxing to Sanofi, they had delivered the Lantus to my doctor’s office, and it was 4 days for Novo-Nordisk. Total time from filling out forms to total supply of insulin, glucagon and pen needles was about 1.5 weeks.
Thanks PJ for letting us know that there are some avenues for assistance but clearly, working closely with a health care provider is key. For more information, see links below.
Test Strips for blood glucose
Accu-Check has a Patient Assistance Program, “You must be a qualified, registered patient at one of the identified clinics in order to receive the products.” There is an interactive map that shows you where these clinics are – so worth investigating this.
Bayer has a discount card, and if you call 1-800-348-8100 – they will send 50 to you for free (but that’s it).
Lifescan (Johnson & Johnson) doesn’t have a program, but they do have a page on their website that suggests calling Rx Assist, listed below. Essentially they don’t have a program.
RX Assist provides a wealth of information for assistance programs.