Seniors Skip Meds They Can’t Afford
How bad is the need to provide seniors with some assistance in covering costs of prescription drugs?
According to a recent study, because of cost, one in five seniors surveyed across the state skips doses, or simply go without a prescribed medication.
Among those with no drug coverage who are suffering from chronic illnesses, such as hypertension, diabetes or congestive heart failure, the number climbs to one in three.
The study was done by an organization called the Commonwealth Fund, a health policy group in Manhattan. Its aim was to understand how Medicare beneficiaries fare without drug coverage and to look into how well state programs supplement the lack of Medicare or other coverage.
According to David Sandman, assistant vice president for the Commonwealth Fund and lead author of the study, some programs reach a good percentage of low-income seniors, but the real lesson of the study is that individual states do not make up for the lack of a prescription drug program.
Missing doses of prescribed medication in some cases can be life threatening, if, for example, the patient suffers from high blood pressure or has had a heart attack.
Meanwhile, there has been no definite word from Republicans, who control both houses and the presidency, as to whether they plan to try to pass a Medicare prescription drug benefit program next year.
MORE ON GENERIC DRUGS: Another way to reduce consumers’ drug costs is through having more lower costing generic drugs on the market. President George W. Bush is on record as favoring increases of the number of generics being made available to the public, and United States Senator Charles Schumer (D–New York) has proposed legislation to shorten the life of drug patents in order to clear the way for more generics.
The name of new Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Mark B. McClellan can be added to that list.
McClellan said recently that he wants to speed up the approval time of both brand name and generic drugs to get them on the market sooner.
"We have some great opportunities to do better in drug approval times and in getting products that are safe and effective to market more quickly," McClellan said.
A physician and economist, McClellan worked at the White House until he took over at FDA recently.
One person who agreed wholeheartedly with McClellan’s policy was Jake Hansen, vice president of Barr Laboratories, a major generic drug manufacturer. Hansen said the approval of a generic drug by the FDA is supposed to take six months, but it’s not at all unusual for the approval period to stretch to 14 or 16 months.
HEAP STARTING UP: City Councilmember Helen Sears announced last week that the city Department for the Aging (DFTA) has started the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) for this season, which promises some financial aid to eligible seniors and low-income families.
Sears (D–Jackson Heights) said she has applications for the program available at her district office, 37-32 75th St., Jackson Heights, (718) 803-6373. Call and ask for Rocco DiAngelo.
The DFTA also has applications available.