April 4, 2008
Jefferson City, Mo. - At a time when many Missouri households are having difficulty in affording necessary prescription drugs, Attorney General Jay Nixon has launched an innovative grants program to help link Missouri seniors and low-income residents with free or low-cost prescription drugs - all without any cost to state taxpayers.
In the past two weeks, Nixon has distributed more than $333,000 in technology grants to 112 organizations throughout the state, including a third round of grants today totaling $52,820. The grants will help the organizations obtain the necessary computer software, hardware and training to connect Missourians with almost 200 drug distribution programs offered by pharmaceutical companies.
Those grants represent a little more than half the $630,000 that Nixon is making available to help Missourians with prescription drug costs. The money for the grants comes from a settlement his office and other Attorneys General reached in February with Caremark Rx LLC, one of the nation's largest pharmacy benefits management (PBM) companies.
The settlement required participating states to use most of the settlement to benefit low-income, disabled or elderly consumers of prescription medications, to promote lower drug costs for their residents, to educate consumers concerning the cost differences among medications, or for similar purposes. Nixon's staff came up with the idea to use the money for the grants to help link those in need with already existing programs offered by the drug companies.
"These organizations will be able to easily link hundreds of thousands of Missourians who have difficulty in paying for prescriptions with the life-saving medications they need," Nixon said. "A small investment - made without cost to taxpayers - has the potential to translate to millions in savings."
The grants, which to date have ranged from $299 to $14,300, will enable the organizations to purchase two-year licenses to use already available software. The software coordinates linking prescription drug patients with matching free or low-cost drug programs from manufacturers. The grants also can be used for hardware or training.
Examples of organizations that have received the grants to date are area agencies on aging, senior centers, church-run programs for the elderly and poor, and community action agencies.
Interested organizations can still apply for the grants until April 21, 2008. Any organization that wants to apply for grants from Nixon's Prescription Drug Access Technology Initiative should do so through the Attorney General's Web site, ago.mo.gov, or should obtain a hard copy of the application by calling the Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-392-8222.
The settlement with Caremark resolved concerns about the company's drug-switching program. Caremark paid nearly $38.5 million nationwide to Missouri and 28 other participating states to settle the claims. The settlement also required Caremark to significantly change its business practices.