July 19, 2011

Chronic Pain Patients Get Faster Access To Premium Drugs

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Patients with chronic pain will get faster access to higher-cost prescription drugs starting Jan. 1

A bill placing limits on step therapy was signed into law recently by Gov. Dannel Malloy.  Step therapy now requires patients to try lower-cost remedies first. Only after those fail to control pain would more expensive drugs be covered by insurance.

Advocates argued that, in cases of chronic pain, step therapy can keep patients from getting effective relief for years, leading to depression and lost time on the job.

Paul Gileno of Shelton, founder of the U.S. Pain Foundation, said that this “win’’ in Connecticut, where insurance companies have a strong presence, was especially gratifying.  “I think it’s amazing because we were fought by the insurance lobbyists,’’ said Gileno.    He credited the bill’s approval to patients who lobbied their lawmakers.

“Their lives are going to change,’’ he said.  The pain foundation will work to pass similar legislation in Delaware, Massachusettes, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Gileno said.

The New England Biotech Association, whose members include pharmaceutical companies and academic institutions, also supported the measure.

Insurance companies argued that their step therapy formularies were developed by doctors and pharmacists, based on research and provided a reasonable cost-containment measure.

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