Novartis to send 16 brand-name medications to MedBank

July 08, 2005|by DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ


MedBank of Maryland officials announced plans Thursday to stockpile bulk supplies of 16 brand-name Novartis medications to distribute to low-income patients in need across the state, reducing the time those patients spend taking sample drugs from their doctors or going without them until the drugs arrive by mail.

Robert N. McEwan, CEO of MedBank, said Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. has agreed to ship free medications in bulk to MedBank's Towson, Md., pharmacy, where they can be delivered within two weeks to patients in need. Previously, MedBank would mail forms on behalf of its clients to the drug maker, which would send the medications to the patients as part of a process that could take up to eight weeks, McEwan said.

Novartis is the fifth pharmaceutical company to agree to ship its medications in bulk to MedBank, with others including Abbott Laboratories, AstraZeneca, OrthoMcNeil and Pfizer Inc., McEwan said. MedBank is hoping to establish partnerships with other companies including Merck & Co. and Bristol-Myers Squibb, he said.


McEwan said the partnership helps strengthen MedBank's commitment to uninsured and underinsured residents in Maryland who otherwise could not afford medications.

"We need to focus in and concentrate on the working poor," McEwan said.

Started in Hagerstown as a pilot program, MedBank was established in 2001 with funding from the state's Senior Prescription Drug Program. Since its inception, MedBank has provided $65 million in free medications to more than 30,000 residents across the state and, last year, distributed $3 million in prescription drugs to Washington County residents.

A proponent of the program, Del. John Donoghue, D-Washington, said programs such as MedBank are able to reduce the amount of trips low-income workers make to hospitals for emergency treatment of ailments that easily could have been be treated through access to medications.

"At the end of the day, we're all paying for those visits," Donoghue said. "We're saving money, that's the bottom line."

Rick Knapp, executive director for state government affairs at Novartis, praised MedBank and said it was in line with his own company's commitment to opening up access to prescription medication to those who otherwise would go unmedicated. He said while the company distributes about $660,000 in medications to Maryland patients through the program, he acknowledged MedBank is better equipped to distribute the drugs.

"They get the drugs to the patients quicker than we can," he said.

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