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Archive for Wednesday, February 6, 2002

Drug costs impede charity’s services

Sedgwick County agency must turn needy away

February 6, 2002

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— A charity that helps Sedgwick County's elderly and working poor says rising drug costs and increasing demand are squeezing it and its clients.

The Medical Service Bureau said that while it is helping more people, it's getting a larger number of requests that it can't fill.

Four years ago, it helped 6,175 people and turned away 1,310. But last year, it turned away more than 5,000 people, even though it helped 7,818.

It's no wonder more people need help buying medicines, officials there say. Retail prescription prices have skyrocketed since the late 1990s.

The average retail price for a prescription more than doubled between 1990 and 2000, from $22 to $45, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit health policy research group.

For workers who lack health benefits, the disabled and elderly people on fixed incomes, the numbers point to more county residents choosing between health care and other necessities, said Rosa Molina, director of the agency.

The pharmaceutical industry has stepped up to help by offering discounted and free medicines to poor people who qualify, said Jeff Trewhitt, a spokesman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, an industry trade group.

"There's some indication there may be more to come," Trewhitt said. "It is a constructive development, but it is not a substitute for drug coverage."

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