August 24, 2009

AHEC North Central Helping Low-Income Residents Get Free Prescriptions

LITTLE ROCK – The UAMS Area Health Education Center (AHEC) North Central has established a program that is helping residents in the region get free prescription drugs.

The program, called the Medication Assistance Program (MAP), is run by specially trained staff that uses new computer software to navigate the more than 150 free drug programs offered by drug companies.

“The drug company programs are available to anyone, but they’re complex and difficult to understand,” said Dennis Moore, Pharm.D., director of AHEC North Central. “Our staff is trained to administer the initial drug application, follow up as needed and handle refill procedures.”

There is no charge for the AHEC drug program, but it is limited to those who have little or no means to pay for their prescription drugs. The program is not available to those who have drug coverage through their employer, Medicare or Medicaid. But it can help those who lack such coverage and don’t have money for expensive medicines they need.

In addition to filling that gap in coverage, the MAP program will assist those on Medicare Part D when participants hit their coverage gap, often referred to as the doughnut hole. 

When someone needs a prescription, the AHEC’s MAP coordinators use computer programs that search the drug company programs to see if the requested drug is available.

The free programs typically provide medications for high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes or other chronic conditions. Most controlled drugs and pain medications are not part of the assistance program. The program also does not provide emergency drug supplies for short-term illnesses.

“The benefits of the MAP program are obvious,” Moore said. “Without medication, a person may have to be admitted to a hospital because their illness is not controlled. So the cost of not having the medication is even higher than the cost of the drug, and the consequences might be life threatening.”

For assistance in Cleburne, Independence, Searcy, Stone and Van Buren counties, call Tina Venteicher at (870) 698-9991. For assistance in Baxter, Fulton, Sharp, Izard and Marion counties, call Jamie Gould at (870) 251-6478.

Established in 2007, the AHEC North Central is an extension of UAMS in combination with local community partners. With offices in Batesville and Mountain Home, the AHEC mission is to improve the health of those living in the 10-county area, especially to meet the needs of the underserved.

UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a new 540,000-square-foot hospital, six centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has 2,652 students and 733 medical residents. Its centers of excellence include the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute and the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including nearly 1,150 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. Visit www.uams.edu or uamshealth.com.