Platform expands donations of medications to non-profit clinics and health centers

A pilot initiative announced March 8 will expand upon a model delivering charitable donations of medications to people without health insurance.

Non-profit Direct Relief USA, which provides medical donations to more than 1,000 community clinics and health centers nationwide, said that three organizations -- Abbott, Johnson & Johnson Patient Assistance Foundation and Novartis Patient Assistance Foundation – will participate in a five-state pilot program to donate medicines on a replenishment basis to uninsured, low-income patients.

Direct Relief said the program model is based on a successful pilot conducted in recent years with Abbott.

The expanded pilot, known as the Replenishment Program, will provide needed medications to patients at 10 nonprofit clinics and health centers that collectively serve 268,476 patients in medically underserved areas. The program will support clinics in California, Florida, Michigan, Texas and Washington.

Nationwide, it is estimated that more than 20 million patients receive primary health care services at community-based nonprofit facilities, which include Federally Qualified Health Centers and free clinics.

"This replenishment model brings new efficiencies to charitable efforts to help patients at clinics and health centers get the medications they need on an ongoing basis," said Damon Taugher, Director of Direct Relief.

"We are pleased that non-profit safety-net clinics, their uninsured patients and companies' charitable resources can each leverage Direct Relief's unique status as the only non-profit licensed to distribute medications in all 50 states, the robust information and distribution systems, and extensive network that we have built for this purpose," said Taugher.

Direct Relief provided more than $54 million (valued at wholesale acquisition cost) worth of medicine to its network of clinics and health centers in 2011. The organization received the 2011 Peter F. Drucker Award for Nonprofit Innovation for its aggressive adaptation of commercial technology for humanitarian purposes.

Direct Relief's program complements existing traditional patient assistance programs (PAPs) through which individual companies provide free or discounted prescription medicine to low-income, uninsured patients.

The program aims to:

  • improve the way patients receive medications at clinics and health centers;
  • streamline the clinics' administrative processes spent on PAP enrollment and dispensing;
  • maximize efficiencies in providing donated medicines to patients; and
  • provide a scalable platform for a national program accessible to additional pharmaceutical companies and recipient clinics.

For participating nonprofit clinics and health centers -- which must demonstrate rigorous internal controls for drug dispensing and recordkeeping -- the program provides a single point of access to multiple pharmaceutical companies' drugs. Direct Relief noted that the structure eliminates the need to manage numerous programs and submit duplicative applications for individual medications, which enables redirection of scarce clinical resources from administrative tasks for improved patient care.

The three donating organizations will provide prescription drugs that will assist healthcare providers in the treatment of patients with cardiovascular disease, hypertension, hypothyroidism, neurological disease, mental health disease, HIV/AIDS, infection and other conditions. 

"Direct Relief's Replenishment Program streamlines our ability to provide high-quality care to the patients we serve," said Sharon Ng, pharmacy director of Venice Family Clinic in Venice, Calif.  "With a significant reduction in paperwork and with fewer packages to receive, unpack and update into our inventory, we are able to spend more time with our patients and less time on the administrative component of traditional patient assistance programs. The time savings provided to us through the Replenishment Program helps keep costs low and patient care the main focus."

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