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Executive Summary

DRUG INDIGENT ACCESS DIRECTORY BEING DEVELOPED BY SEN. PRYOR's (D-Ark.) Aging Committee based on pharmaceutical companies' responses to a request for information on special access programs. Pryor and committee ranking Republican Sen. Cohen (Maine) wrote to 42 companies asking for information on such programs on March 16; about 15 companies had responded by the April 8 deadline suggested by the senators. The Pryor/Cohen letter explains that the committee is developing a booklet describing state-based and manufacturer-operated programs for access to prescription drugs for patients who cannot afford them, and the booklet "will be distributed to advocacy organizations, health care professionals and consumers to make them more aware of these programs." Among the companies submitting information are Searle, Marion Merrell Dow, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Pfizer. Searle has had a longstanding patient access program that began in early 1987 with the Calan SR Program for Patients in Need. In its response to the congressional letter, Searle estimates it has distributed 3 mil. certificates since 1989 and a total of 5 mil. since it first launched the program. BMS began an indigent care program on March 1 for all 17 of its cardiovascular drug products. The program parallels similar efforts for Bristol's AIDS drug Videx (ddI), begun in September 1989, and for its cancer drugs, begun in 1973 ("The Pink Sheet" Jan. 27, T&G-1). Pfizer has a special indigent distribution program for Diflucan (fluconazole) for AIDS-related fungal patients and also donates various products in community-based programs in Kentucky and Arkansas. Most pharmaceutical companies also will provide drugs if contacted by a physician about an indigent patient. Former American Heart Association President Harriet Dustan, MD, spotlighted the indigent access issue in a speech last fall. Dustan said she planned to approach the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association to urge them to develop an industry-wide program to provide pharmaceutical therapies to patients who cannot otherwise afford them ("The Pink Sheet" Nov. 25, 1991, T&G-2). PMA appears to be taking the challenge seriously -- the association formed a "Task Force on Access" at its March 7 board meeting in Florida. PMA said the task force will "identify potential ways to reach Americans who might not otherwise have access to necessary medicines." The group is chaired by Upjohn CEO Theodore Cooper, MD/PhD, and consists of Hoffmann-La Roche CEO Irwin Lerner, Marion Merrell Dow CEO Fred Lyons, Genentech CEO Kirk Raab, Ciba-Geigy Pharmaceuticals Division President Douglas Watson, Syntex CEO Paul Freiman and American Home Products CEO John Stafford. PMA VP-Health Care Systems Division Karen Williams will serve as a liaison to the task force. The task force will meet once by teleconference prior to the PMA annual meeting in May, and then again in person at the annual meeting. At a recent meeting with wholesalers, MMD's Lyons said that the task force also fits into PMA's ongoing efforts to "improve perceptions" of the industry in order to counter attacks on its profitability.

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