Minority Coalition for Prescription Drug Assistance Launched

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Prescription Drug and Medication Assistance

Focusing on the disparities that exist in access to prescription medications and the resulting effect on poor health outcomes, today, the National Minority Health Month Foundation (NMHMF) announced the formation of the Minority Coalition for Prescription Drug Assistance. The Coalition is headed by co-chairs former U.S. Representative Peter Deutsch and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People board member and Health Committee Chair, Rupert Richardson. The Coalition also formally expressed its support for NitroMed's Patient Assistance Program, which seeks to expand access to African Americans suffering from heart failure.

"If a person cannot afford their medicines, he or she will not be compliant in managing their chronic illness," said Congressman Deutsch. "I am very excited to lead this effort to close the health gap and build awareness among minority communities about benefits to pay for life-saving medicines that can offset the prevalence of chronic diseases. This is a collaborative effort with community, government and industry."

NitroMed, which recently received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to market BiDil(R), a new heart failure medicine shown to be successful in treating self-identified black patients during the African American Heart Failure Trial, has unveiled a patient assistance program that will offer BiDil to all patients who need it, regardless of income or health insurance status.

"NitroMed's patient assistance program is the type of proactive industry response we need as we work collaboratively to eliminate health disparities and open access to life saving medicines," said Richardson.

The Minority Coalition for Prescription Drug Assistance commends NitroMed for its commitment in organizing a ground-breaking patient assistance program to ensure that all indicated patients who are affected by heart failure, and in need of support, have access to this new, life-saving medication. The Coalition, including organizations like the National Medical Association and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, is working closely with NitroMed on this program to ensure that every individual at risk is aware of this important resource.

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A Department of Health and Human Services Report to the president found that only 30 percent of African Americans over the age of 65 had prescription drug coverage for a least one month during the year. Just as startling, approximately 44.7 million non-elderly Americans will lack prescription drug insurance in 2006. In addition, more than one third of the Hispanic population and over a quarter of Native Americans are uninsured, compared with just 13 percent of whites.

"The Foundation sees the Minority Coalition for Prescription Drug Assistance as central to its mission to eliminate health disparities," said Gary A. Puckrein, Ph.D., Executive Director of the NMHMF.

Founding Members of the Coalition include: Winston Price, M.D., F.A.A.P., President, National Medical Association; Lucille Perez, M.D., National Health Director of the Health Advocacy Division, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; Willarda V. Edwards, M.D., President and Chief Operating Officer of the Sickle Cell Association of America; Randall W. Maxey, M.D., Ph.D., President, Alliance of Minority Medical Associations; Rene F. Rodriguez, M.D., President, Interamerican College of Physicians and Surgeons; and Gary Puckrein, Ph.D., Executive Director, National Minority Health Month Foundation.

While much research has focused on racial disparities in the receipt of specific medical procedures and the use of preventive and other health care services, relatively little attention has been paid to the disparities that exist in the access to prescription drugs. The Minority Coalition for Prescription Drug Assistance plans to conduct a state-by-state qualitative assessment of prescription drug coverage by zip code and issue a national report card on coverage.

The Foundation recently joined the Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA), which unites America's pharmaceutical companies, doctors and other health care providers, patient advocates and community groups. Through its network of more than 275 public and private patient assistance programs, PPA's grassroots awareness program goes into communities of color and works collaboratively with local community-based organizations to educate individuals about their prescription drug options and assist them in registering for benefits.

The National Minority Health Month Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization that promotes the building of coalitions and evidenced-based solutions towards the elimination of health disparities.

Source: National Minority Health Month Foundation: CONTACT: Cleve Mesidor of the National Minority Health Month Foundation, +1-202-223-7560. WASHINGTON, July 1 /PRNewswire/

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