Getting HIV Drugs
Drug companies run Patient Assistance, Expanded Access, and Compassionate Use Programs. Each company has its own rules for deciding how the program works. Your health care provider will need to complete applications in order for you to apply.
Patient Assistance Programs help people get medications that are already approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). If you qualify for the program, you will be able to get your HIV drugs without cost. Patient Assistance Programs are usually a short-term solution until another way of paying for the drug is arranged. However, this can be helpful if you are waiting for insurance or government benefits to begin.
Expanded Access and Compassionate Use programs provide drugs that are not yet FDA-approved to people who are in serious risk of illness or who have no other way to construct a good treatment regimen. The drugs are provided free of charge by the companies developing them through participating health care providers.
A company will often create an Expanded Access Program just before the drug is about to be accepted by the FDA. The rules are the same for everyone using the program, while with Compassionate Use Programs, each case is looked at individually.
In some cases, you can get HIV drugs free of charge through a clinical trial. However, drugs being tested in clinical trials may not be FDA-approved, so there is some risk involved in taking an experimental treatment. You will also need to meet the entry requirements of a trial in order to be allowed to participate and you may not have control over which drugs you receive.
Clinical trials are important because they determine if a drug is safe and effective. Some HIV drugs affect women's bodies differently than men's. If you take part in a clinical trial, you will help people know more about how HIV and HIV drugs affect women.
Being in a trial can mean answering extra questions and taking more time at your provider's office or clinic. Before joining a trial, make sure that it is the right decision for you. If you are joining primarily to have access to HIV drugs, speak to your health care provider and get all the facts before relying on this method to get your drugs.
Buyers' clubs sell complementary treatments and supplements, at prices generally lower than retail. Many of them are nonprofit and some offer financial assistance if necessary. If you use supplements, buyers' clubs can help cut costs.
Some community organizations have money to help people in an emergency get the drugs they need on a short-term or one-time-only basis. Your local AIDS service organization may have a program that can assist you while you are waiting for insurance or government benefits.
Do not take a friend's drugs even if they are the same as yours. Your friend will run out early and may not be able to get the prescription refilled. In addition, it is best to take only drugs that were meant for you.
If you are having trouble getting your HIV drugs, talk to your health care provider before you run out. He or she may have samples of drugs that will last you until a prescription program starts.
It can be awkward or embarrassing to ask for help. However, taking your HIV drugs is the key to living a long, healthy, and productive life with HIV. If you cannot afford your HIV meds, it is important that you ask your provider, treatment advocate, case manager, or representative from a local AIDS service organization to help you find short- and long-term options for getting the HIV drugs you need to stay healthy.
This article was provided by The Well Project. Visit The Well Project's Web site to learn more about their resources and initiatives for women living with HIV. The Well Project shares its content with TheBody.com to ensure all people have access to the highest quality treatment information available. The Well Project receives no advertising revenue from TheBody.com or the advertisers on this site. No advertiser on this site has any editorial input into The Well Project's content.
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