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APA Helps People So They Don't Have To Throw Their Prescriptions Away

by Amanda Hollingworth
January 16, 2019
Representatives from the Alliance for Pharmaceutical Access accept a $500 donation from the CoastHills Community Action Sponsorship Program.
Representatives from Alliance for Pharmaceutical Access accept a $500 donation from the CoastHills Credit Union Community Action Sponsorship program.

A doctor in Santa Maria noticed that many patients were quietly tossing their prescriptions in the trash on their way out — not because they didn’t need the treatment, but because they knew they had no hope of affording the medication.

This lead to the formation of The Alliance For Pharmaceutical Access (APA) in 2004. APA is a nonprofit organization working to support the health of the uninsured and underinsured in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties by promoting pharmaceutical accessibility.

Sarah Reinhart, Executive Director, notes that the high cost of prescription medication, which continues to rise every year, is a serious problem ؅for everyone — but especially for those with chronic illnesses like diabetes or mental illness where skipping treatment has life-threatening consequences.

Sarah describes a recent client who was unable to work due to his condition. Because of his lack of insurance, he was looking at a bill of $77,000 for his prescriptions. APA helped him get affordable treatment that not only saved his life, but allowed him to go back to work.

He was one of 1,064 people that The Alliance for Pharmaceutical Access helped last year.

His story is all too common, but the organization also serves underinsured clients who are challenge with affordability.

Sarah explains, “the underinsured are people who have insurance, but their particular medication isn’t covered or the copay is outrageous, like $1,000 or more.”

Seniors also face the highest risk for being priced out of medical care. Many rely on Social Security and Medicare. Medicare has an annual limit of what it can cover, and even with supplemental insurance, many seniors use up their coverage before the end of the year and are forced to pay out of pocket.

In 2017 alone, the organization worked to get their clients a total of 1605 prescriptions valued at $2,007,695.73. Not only that, they helped 91 people get their diabetes supplies at a discount.

The numbers are staggering, especially when there are many more people out in the community who don’t know where to turn for help.

How does it work?

The organization works closely with doctors, hospitals, and social workers that refer over patients who need APA’s services. Sometimes, clients come in straight from the pharmacy after seeing the price tag.

Clients meet with APA’s advocates who determines eligibility and needs. The client gives them permission to act on their behalf, then the advocate researches potential generic brand alternatives and applies for patient assistance and discount programs for each of the client’s prescriptions.

Once approved and enrolled for assistance, the client’s medications are shipped directly to their doctor and their enrollment is good for a full year. APA can even help with ensuring refills are ready at when needed.

Because The Alliance for Pharmaceutical Access is a grassroots nonprofit, they rely on community support like the recent $500 donation from CoastHills’ Community Action Sponsorships Program. Sarah focuses on applying for grants and other donation programs while her advocates handle the day to day operations and manage clients. While monetary donations are crucial, they are also interested in something as simple as office furniture or a spare filing cabinet. 

For those interested in donating or learning more about volunteer opportunities, contact Sarah on APA’s Facebook page or via email.

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