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Hotline for free medication and drug information really helps!

by Senator Richard T. Moore

March 20, 2006 - Anyone in public service at the state or local level knows the great feeling they get when something they proposed makes a difference in the lives of the people they serve. In fact, one of the reasons that I’ve spent so many years in elective office is the knowledge that I am able to help people who are in genuine need of assistance. Recently, I had the opportunity to learn how my idea has developed and how much help it is providing to people across the state.

This month, the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences opened a new, state of the art call center for its MassMedLine prescription drug patient information service at the college’s downtown Worcester campus. The MassMedLine program has saved Massachusetts consumers over $25 million in the past five years by helping elderly and disabled people obtain free and low cost prescription medications from pharmaceutical companies. The program has also been an important resource for consumers and senior advocates in helping people to understand the often confusing rules for the new Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Assistance program and for the state’s Prescription Advantage Program. Under the able leadership of pharmacist and Douglas resident Mary Sullivan, a staff of ten pharmacists and pharmacy students provide live person (not recorded) information to callers on the toll free hotline: 1-866-633-1617.

MassMedLine services include: information on various insurance programs via case management specialists, information about programs sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry that provide free, low cost, or discounted medications, information about private organizations providing discounted medications, clinical information from licensed pharmacists providing medication counseling, drug profile review, counseling on compliance issues and options for lower cost medications, and outreach programs to increase community awareness of the programs that are available for prescription access. MassMedLine logs about 1500 calls a month.

After becoming the Senate Chairman of the Legislature’s Health Care Committee in 1999, I convened a meeting at MIT of major drug companies, pharmacists organizations, pharmacy educators, and others to find ways to help people obtain drugs they needed at affordable prices. The result was the creation of the MassMedLine program. Later that year, I sponsored a provision in the budget for the state’s Prescription Advantage Program for the Department of Elder Affairs to develop a program to coordinate patient needs with drug company assistance programs. The contract was awarded in July 2001 to the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy, and they’ve administered the program successfully for the past five years.

The advent of the new Medicare drug benefit will not reduce the need for MassMedLine. Initially, MassMedLine was a virtual lifeline for seniors in connecting them to the new Part D program. As new seniors become eligible for Medicare each year, the program will continue to help people to understand their benefits. In addition, the college plans to link MassMedLine with their health resources library at their Boston campus to provide information on drug quality in addition to help with drug cost and access.

In addition, many drug companies plan to shift their free drug benefit programs to help younger low income people with medication needs now that seniors have help from the federal government. MassMedLine will still be there to help people of all ages obtain access to affordable, quality medications to better manage their health conditions or illness.

MassMedLine is an excellent example of partnership between government and the private sector that helps individuals bridge the gap toward a brighter future. While I launched the program and supported funding over the years, many other legislators, state agency officials, college faculty and students, drug company executives, and pharmacists have made it the success that it is today. When anyone you know has a question about their medications or is concerned about the high cost of a medication they need, encourage them to call, toll free, 1-866-633-1617 Monday through Friday between 8:00 AM and 6:00 P.M. The call might actually save a life or, at least, make someone’s life a lot more enjoyable.

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Richard T. Moore is a Democrat from Uxbridge representing the Worcester and Norfolk District in the Massachusetts State Senate. He is the Senate Chairman of the Committee on Health Care Financing and the principal author of the MassMedLine program.

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