Doctor helping other doctors reduce drug costs for poor

Friday, February 11th 2005, 2:11 pm
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- Family physician George Hulsey doesn't care if his patents are getting their prescriptions from Canada or Europe. He just wants them to get the medicine they need.

"I see a diabetic taking six or seven prescriptions, those with high blood pressure three or four and those with coronary heart disease can be taking a half dozen different prescriptions costing hundreds of dollars per month.

"The cost of these prescriptions are just out of sight."

To help his patients with the cost, Hulsey has depended on drug samples, substituted generic drugs for patented drugs, as well as prescribing a higher potency of a drug than needed, then instructing the patient to cut the pill in half which reduces the per pill cost.

But now he's found a better way to help patients.

He has put together a 28-page book containing information on 49 pharmaceutical companies and nonprofit organizations that help provide drugs to the uninsured or underinsured for free or at minimal cost.

While most pharmaceutical companies have offered these programs for many years, there was no central clearinghouse to help doctors to find help for their patients.

The book, Pharmaceutical Resources for the Uninsured, is that clearinghouse -- pinpointing programs, eligibility requirements and contact numbers for medications for cancer, HIV, Alzheimer 's disease, depression, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and other diseases.

A partnership with the Oklahoma State Medical Association, Physicians' Campaign for a Healthier Oklahoma, Council on Public and Mental Health and the Norman Regional Hospital has enabled the printing of 1,000 copies of the free book.

The information in the book has also been posted on the Web site of the Oklahoma State Medical Association.

"Older people are proud and they won't tell you they are spending their last penny on prescriptions," said Hulsey. "When doctors prescribe a medication they don't know the cost."

"This book is user friendly for both the patient and the doctor to get free medication as painless as possible."

In 2003, more than 950,000 people received assistance from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Company for medication with a wholesale value of more than $400 million.

"We try to get out there and let people know they don't have to go without their medication," said Bryan Henry, spokesman for the Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, whose foundation has been dispensing free medicine since 1998.

Getting approved for the free medicine usually depends on income level and need.

Hulsey's son, Brett Hulsey, has been giving the book to senior citizens in Dane County, in Madison, Wis., where he is a county supervisor.

"My grandmother, Marian Corley of Sulfur, had a stroke and had to leave her home and go into a nursing home," he said. "Afterward, we found out that she had been scrimping on her blood pressure medicine because she was on Social Security.

"We were horrified. If she had only told us, we would have helped her."

Nobody should have to chose between medicine, food and other needs, he said.

"This book is the chance to help others avoid those kind of choices."