Exploring the use of pharmaceutical patient assistance programs as an option to improve access to and affordability of prescription drugs

Tisha Moniek Felder, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Background. Pharmaceutical-sponsored patient assistance programs (PAPs) are charity programs that provide free or reduced-priced medications to eligible patients. PAPs have the potential to improve prescription drug accessibility for patients but currently there is limited information about their use and effectiveness. Objectives and methods. This dissertation described the use of PAPs in the U.S. through the conduct of two studies: (1) a systematic review of primary studies of PAPs from commercially-published and “grey” literature sources; and (2) a retrospective, cross-sectional study of cancer patients' use of PAPs at a tertiary care cancer outpatient center. Results. (1) The systematic review identified 33 studies: 15 evaluated the impact of PAP enrollment assistance programs on patient healthcare outcomes; 7 assessed institutional costs of providing enrollment assistance; 7 surveyed stakeholders; 4 examined other aspects. Standardized mean differences calculated for disease indicator outcomes (most of which were single group, pre-posttest designs) showed significant decreases in glycemic and lipid control, and inconsistent results for blood pressure. Grey literature abstracts reported insufficient statistics for calculations. Study heterogeneity made weighted summary estimates inappropriate. Economic analyses indicated positive financial benefits to institutions providing enrollment assistance (cost) compared to the wholesale value of the medications provided (benefit); analyses did not value health outcomes. Mean quality of reporting scores were higher for observational studies in commercially-published articles versus full text, grey literature reports. (2) The cross-sectional study found that PAP outpatients were significantly more likely to be uninsured, indigent, and < 65 years old than non-PAP patients. Nearly all non-PAP and PAP prescriptions were for non-cancer conditions, either for co-morbidities (e.g., hypertension) or the management of treatment side effects (e.g., pain). Oral chemotherapies from PAPs were significantly more likely to be for breast versus other cancers, and be a newer, targeted versus traditional chemotherapy. Conclusions. In outpatient settings, PAP enrollment assistance plus additional medication services (e.g., counseling, reminders, and free samples) is associated with improved disease indicators for patients. Healthcare institutions, including cancer centers, can offset financial losses from uncompensated drug costs and recoup costs invested in enrollment assistance programs by procuring free PAP medications. Cancer patients who are indigent and uninsured may be able to access more outpatient medications for their supportive care needs through PAPs, than for cancer treatment options like oral chemotherapies. Because of the selective availability of drugs through PAPs, there may be more options for newer, oral, targeted chemotherapies for the treatment breast cancer versus other for other cancers.

Subject Area

Pharmacy sciences|Public health

Recommended Citation

Felder, Tisha Moniek, "Exploring the use of pharmaceutical patient assistance programs as an option to improve access to and affordability of prescription drugs" (2010). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3398971.