Skyrocketing drug expenses and a stagnant economy can spell trouble for many people who rely on prescription drugs for their health. However, Stonewall Jackson Memorial Hospital has been working hard to ease the pain of those costs with participation in the federal 340B Prescription Drug Plan.
For several years, SJMH has worked with Weston's Best Care Pharmacy on the program.
The 340B program originally was designed by the federal government to cut drug expenses at government hospitals and healthcare entities. It then expanded to allow rural hospitals, such as SJMH, to participate in a partnership that allows a pharmacy to dispense drugs at a reduced cost for patients.
It has been such a success and benefit for patients that SJMH has now expanded to work with three more pharmacies, which will participate in the program - Kroger Pharmacies in Weston, Buckhannon and East Pointe Plaza in Clarksburg. It is continuing the program with Best Care Pharmacy.
SJMH patients who use the hospital's services or SJMH physicians can participate in the program. They receive substantial savings on their drug costs by using the 340B program.
"This is a win-win situation for everyone involved in this program," explained Dodie Arbogast, SJMH chief financial officer, in a news release. "The most important aspect is that our patients can save money when they buy their pharmaceutical drugs through this plan."
Even though the economy is still flat, the price of prescription drugs continues to soar. In fact, drug prices are the fastest growing chunk of consumer's health expenses according to the non-profit Families USA.
For example, a typical savings for a SJMH patient using the program may be 60 to 90 percent. A 90-day supply of birth control pills may cost only $26 for a three-month supply. A tube of Premarin, which retails for $180, may cost only $18 through the 340B program. A 10-day supply of Nexium can cost a patient $200. Through 340B the cost may only be $21.
"We are always looking for ways to help our patients, and the 340B program has exceeded our expectations," Arbogast said. "By expanding it to Kroger Pharmacies it should be a great help to people who spend so much on prescriptions. A recent study noted that as many as 90 percent of seniors and 60 percent of adults rely on prescriptions on a regular basis. This has to be a big help to them."
To participate in the program, there are two requirements.
1. The patient must be a SJMH patient within a certain time frame, either as a patient of SJMH within the past 12 months or as a patient of a SJMH Physician Clinic within the past three years.
2. The prescription being filled must have been written by a physician with SJMH privileges and meet one of the above criteria.
The patient should receive a SUNRx card from their SJMH healthcare provider. The cards are also available at SJMH's Registration Department. The cards must be shown to the pharmacy when a prescription is being filled.
Exceptions to the 340B program are generic drugs, narcotics and "orphan" drugs for specific diseases.