October 7, 2009
This week, Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) announced a new payment assistance program for its HIV medication drug Viramune (nevirapine). The program is open to U.S. residents who are taking Viramune and have private health insurance, but are required to make a copay for medications. (HIVers who are on Medicare, Medicaid, or other governmentally-funded programs, or who are cash-paying customers, are not eligible.)
The program provides a $50 rebate through a MasterCard debit card on monthly refills of Viramune prescriptions for up to a year. Participants can join the program and obtain the card by talking to their health care providers. (If your doctor is not familiar with the program, he or she can contact BI and a representative will issue them cards.)
Once someone is accepted into the program, the debit card is used specifically to pay for the Viramune copay. It works at all pharmacies that accept MasterCard, including mail-order pharmacies, and must be activated by phone or online. When activating a card, people are also given a chance to enroll in the Vlife on Therapy program, which provides free adherence support for people taking Viramune.
The assistance program comes at an important time for people with HIV/AIDS. Some states' AIDS Drug Assistance Programs are running out of funding, kicking people off the program and/or starting waiting lists. Without aid, many patients have trouble affording their medication. Even for people with insurance, copays can vary drastically from $5.00 to $500 a month or more.
"Copays are known as 'barriers to utilization' and insurance companies use them to keep costs down," says activist Bob Huff, who is on the board of the AIDS Treatment Activists Coalition, which recently issued a report card on HIV/AIDS drug companies encouraging companies to provide copay assistance.
"Copay assistance helps people start and stay adherent to their treatment," Huff said. "We're happy Boehringer Ingelheim is now supporting a copay help program."
Though many drug companies don't publicize it, most have programs to help people pay for HIV medications. Unfortunately, since all HIV treatment regimens contain at least three medications, often from three different companies, it's a challenge to get drug payment assistance for all three medications.