What started out as a perhaps good idea — helping people who can’t afford the drugs they need — has turned into a cruel reinforcement for drug companies to keep their prices for medications artificially high for U.S. citizens.
To cope with rising medical costs, insurers are requiring patients to pay higher premiums and co-payments for drugs. While poor uninsured patients can often get expensive medicine free from drug companies, people with insurance are increasingly finding it difficult to afford these drugs. In response, drug companies are giving money to charities that are specifically set up to help patients pay such costs.
Under this support system, drug-company money keeps patients insured — and keeps insurers paying for the high-priced medicine. […]
The program has grown steadily, now assisting people with 19 different chronic illnesses. Last year, Patient Services [which helps patients pay for drugs they otherwise couldn’t afford] raised $22 million, helping nearly 20,000 patients pay premiums and co-payments. About $17 million of that came from 13 drug companies.