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State lawmakers are turning to charity to help uninsured patients get their medications.
A bill with bipartisan support would allow pharmacists, doctors and health care facilities to donate unused prescription drugs to a state repository that could be accessed by indigent, uninsured or under-insured patients.
Under the program, there would be rules about what kinds of drugs could be donated and who could get them. The drugs would also have to meet safety requirements, like being in unopened, tamper-proof packaging and have at least three months before they expire.
The plan has the potential to help thousands of patients, as long as their safety is made a priority, said Kevin Sneed, dean of the Taneja College of Pharmacy at the University of South Florida.
“We want to make sure that somehow people have not adulterated that product and either added something to it or left it in an unsafe environment,” Sneed said. “If you leave something out in the back of your car on a 95 degree day, have you fundamentally changed the nature of what that medication was designed to do?”
The bill (HB 177) contains several safeguards designed to protect patients.
The drugs will have to be maintained in a closed drug delivery system, meaning control of the dose or medication is maintained by a facility, rather than a patient. Patients would be required to have valid prescriptions for the drugs.
The state may also want to consider partnering with pharmacy programs that could test the medications, Sneed said.
“Very soon we’re going to have facilities here that can actually be available to do testing of these products to make sure they are what they are and to make sure of their potency and expiration dates and beyond use expiration dates,” Sneed said.
Florida operates a similar donation program for cancer drugs. The prescription drug program is based on programs in Iowa, Wyoming and Oklahoma. Since 2007, Iowa’s program has helped more than 71,000 patients save $17.7 million on drug costs.
If Florida’s bill passes, health care facilities around the state could establish repositories. The Department of Health would establish criteria for who could operate the repositories but they would be limited to entities that are already licensed to dispense prescription drugs.
Donors could include nursing homes, hospices, hospitals, pharmacies, drug manufacturers and pharmacists.