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For the millions of Americans who depend on insulin to live, its immense cost can be a deadly issue. Even with insurance, some patients are still resorting to rationing their insulin or obtaining it in illegal ways.
Good Shepherd Pharmacy in Memphis, TN is combating this by making it possible for people to get the medication they urgently need. Phil Baker founded Good Shepherd as a non-profit charitable pharmacy in 2015, and his vision was to make sure his patients were on the fewest, cheapest, and safest meds available. “[We] got connected with an organization that can provide us with 80% of the drugs we would need for free, and that was just too good to turn down,” he says.
Using these donations, the pharmacy operates on a unique membership model. They do not accept insurance, but instead charge a $50 flat monthly fee and provide most medications at no extra cost. Any drugs not obtained through donations are sold at-cost, providing up to a 97% discount from what patients would see at chain pharmacies.
“I’m not aware of another pharmacy like this at all,” Baker notes. “It makes medicine affordable for people who otherwise wouldn’t even get their prescriptions filled.”
The insulin program is a new addition to the pharmacy, and services households with up to 3 times the federal poverty level. This allows more flexibility in the people they can assist, who may be struggling to afford the life-saving medication.
Their impressive use of med sync within their PioneerRx software allows the staff to sync up all 1,000 of their members to the same day, 4 times a year. This way they can give every patient all of their medication refills at once. Each quarter, they fill thousands of prescriptions and mail them out to their patients. Baker explains, “that’s kind of the cycle that we live in. That’s the most innovative thing that we do.”
With such astounding success so far, it begs the question: How do we spread this model to more pharmacies and help more people get better access to their prescriptions?
There is a study currently being done by the University of Tennessee’s College of Pharmacy in order to formally systematize this subscription program that Good Shepherd has developed. “The goal with Good Shepherd all along has been to [create] a model that can be replicated all over the place,” Baker says.
For now, Good Shepherd Pharmacy only operates in Tennessee. Baker urges any pharmacies in the area to contact them if they need help assisting patients who cannot afford their medication. “It doesn’t cost you anything to give us a call…or go to our website…and see if we can help.”