UGA pharmacist, founder of non-profit Medication Access Program, aims to demystify new Medicare Part

Athens, Ga. – With the May 15 enrollment deadline looming, a University of Georgia pharmacist is urging health care professionals to educate their patients about the new Medicare prescription drug benefit.

“We have to get the word out to our patients that Medicare part D is out there and get our patients some assistance to help them evaluate the benefits that Medicare part D may bring,” said Marie Chisholm, associate professor in the College of Pharmacy at UGA and associate clinical professor of medicine at Medical College of Georgia.

Chisholm is the founder and director of the Medication Access Program, a one-of-a-kind program that helps transplant recipients increase their access to medications. The Medication Access Program helps transplant patients who reside in Georgia save money by enrolling in pharmaceutical industry-sponsored medication assistance programs, private foundation programs, state programs and federal programs such as Medicare part D. Since the 1999, the Medication Access Program has helped more than 550 patients save $13 million in medication costs.

In an article scheduled to be published in the American Journal of Transplantation, Chisholm outlines the benefits of Medicare part D and the challenges patients face in enrolling.

Chisholm said that many transplant patients – who have an average of $20,000 in drug costs per year – may be able to save money on their prescription costs by using Medicare part D. Unfortunately, they’re often baffled by the Medicare part D enrollment process and how to select a plan to that’s best for them.

“You have to understand the system,” Chisholm said. “And I think many people don’t – whether they’re seniors or not.”

That’s where health care professionals and the community at large come in, she said.

Health care providers should remind patients of the upcoming May 15 deadline and direct patients to individuals or organizations that can help them enroll. Chisholm points out that penalties may exist for some patients who miss the May 15 deadline.

Some patients may already have prescription drug coverage. Whether or not these people will benefit from part D depends on their specific situation, but Chisholm said it’s a mistake for people dismiss the new benefit without thoroughly considering it.

“The critical message is you need to look into it if you’re eligible,” Chisholm said.

To learn more about the Medication Access Program, visit http://www.mapuga.com/.