Medications for multiple sclerosis (MS) can be difficult to afford, no matter your financial situation. Many new MS drugs are classified as disease-modifying therapies, and they focus on preventing disease progression and relapse. These drugs are very effective and well-tolerated, but they can also be very costly. Whether or not you have health insurance, patient assistance programs — also called prescription assistance programs or PAPs — may provide financial assistance to help you afford expensive MS medications.
One option for financial assistance regarding MS treatment is through programs that offer support paying copayments for prescription medications. Prescription assistance programs are programs offered directly by pharmaceutical companies to help people who need help paying for their prescription medications.
There are more than 375 PAPs in operation in the United States, and every year, they provide $13 billion worth of medications to people who have trouble affording them. Oftentimes, doctors and even pharmacists won’t know about these programs, so you must research them to see if you qualify.
PAPs are different from copay cards. Copay cards and savings programs are also forms of financial assistance issued directly from drug manufacturers.
However, these savings programs are usually only for brand-name drugs and are only for people who are enrolled in a private health insurance plan (not Medicaid or Medicare). If you have private insurance, do not qualify for PAPs, and need help paying for your brand-name drugs, you may search for copay cards for your medications at GoodRx.com.
PAPs may cover brand-name or generic medications. Sometimes, certain medications or specific doses of that medication will be offered through a PAP, but then not offered at other times. Check the PAP’s website for the most up-to-date information.
Different medications for MS have PAPs. Some include:
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society offers a list of different PAPs for MS drugs. It also provides the contact information and direct links to the PAP websites, which you can use to review more about specific programs.
NeedyMeds is another great resource for PAPs for all medications, not just those for MS. You can use its search tool to look for all of your medications and check if there are PAPs for them.
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Because PAPs are offered by drug companies, qualifications to receive assistance depend on the drug. As a baseline, PAPs typically require that you are uninsured and that your household income is at or below the federal poverty level.
Eligibility criteria for each PAP are different, so you need to review the criteria for your specific medications to check if you are eligible. You may start reviewing PAPs for different MS drugs directly at the PAPs’ websites.
One way to find the websites is through Google, by searching the name of the drug and “PAP” or “prescription assistance program.” Another way is through the list of PAPs for MS drugs at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society website or the search function on NeedyMeds.org.
After you have checked that there is a PAP for your MS drug and that you are eligible for the program, you may apply to receive assistance. The application for each PAP is different. You will need to provide some amount of personal and financial information in your application, but it will vary based on the PAP you’re applying for.
All PAP applications require a doctor’s signature. Some programs may also require that your doctor fill out a portion of the application.
If your application for a PAP is accepted, the program will send the medication directly to your home, to your doctor’s office, or the pharmacy. Because MS drugs are usually taken over a long period of time, PAP for MS drugs (and medications for other chronic diseases) may offer refills. The PAP will cover most or all of the costs of the medication.
Sometimes, people have difficulty getting their doctor to fill out the necessary documentation. If you encounter this problem, the following tips can help:
If you need assistance navigating the process of PAPs for MS drugs, there are several resources available to help you.
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society offers MS Navigators — navigators are skilled professionals who can connect you with the information and resources you need. They may be able to connect you to PAPs that you qualify for. You may call or email the National Multiple Sclerosis Society to learn if this resource may help you.
Another great resource is talking to your peers with MS. Perhaps one or several of your peers on MyMSTeam have used PAPs and can help you navigate the process. MyMSTeam members discuss using PAPs to help cover the cost of their MS drugs.
“Most of my meds are now through these types of programs,” one MyMSTeam member said. Posting a general question or comment through the Activities page may garner some helpful information from people who understand what you are going through.
If you do not qualify for a PAP for your MS drugs or other medications, there are other forms of financial support for health care that are available to you. If you do not have health insurance, first review your eligibility for public health insurance programs like Medicare or Medicaid and private programs like individual insurance plans through the health insurance marketplace.
Other programs offer financial assistance for costs related to the treatment of MS. Some programs provide financial assistance to help cover the costs of premiums, and like PAPs, some programs assist with drug copays. Some programs help cover the cost of durable medical equipment like walkers and scooters, to help retain mobility with MS.
Some nonprofit organizations that offer financial support include:
MyMSTeam is the social network for people with multiple sclerosis and their loved ones. On MyMSTeam, more than 168,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with MS.
Do you have MS and use prescription assistance programs? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.