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VOL. 10 | NO. 41 | Saturday, October 7, 2017

Good Shepherd, Transplant Foundation Team to Provide Low-Cost Medication

By Andy Meek

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Because of the high cost of their medications, transplant patients frequently are confronted with difficult-to-impossible choices in figuring out how to obtain and pay for the drugs they need.

Philip Baker, founder and CEO of Good Shepherd Pharmacy located in the Hickory Ridge Mall, started the company in 2015 and was recently honored by the Tennessee Pharmacists Association for his work. (Memphis News/Houston Cofield)

That’s according to National Foundation for Transplants president and CEO Michelle Gilchrist, whose Memphis-based organization has teamed up with the local Good Shepherd Pharmacy to help bring affordable medications to transplant patients in Tennessee.

As a result of the partnership, patients of the foundation – which helps out those facing financial hardship by providing grants for transplant-related expenses – now also have access to either free or at-cost prescription medications through Good Shepherd Pharmacy. Drugs covered through the arrangement include transplant-related medication, maintenance medications which led to the need for a transplant and medications prescribed as a result of adverse reactions related to treatment.

“They’re a national organization and our first national partner,” said Good Shepherd founder and CEO Dr. Philip Baker. “Even though we’re just doing the state of Tennessee, we do plan to as we add licensing in other states just extend this program all across the country.

“The other reason we’re doing this is we found that already transplant patients were paying the highest markup on their medications. Those anti-rejection medicines – those drugs are marked up really high. For example, one of them is consistently about $200 for 30 pills, and we get that and sell it at cost for like $18. So we save those folks a ton of money.”

Gilchrist said the need for a service like this in Tennessee alone is acute. Thousands of people in the state, she said, are officially listed in terms of needing a transplant – but also thousands more who aren’t on any list but still have a need for a transplant.

“And the cost for medication has gone up,” Gilchrist said. “For those patients that are on disability or they’re in what we call the doughnut hole for Medicaid or Medicare, they can’t afford that cost. So this partnership with Good Shepherd allows those on the lower end in terms of income (who) need the medication but who can’t afford it – this partnership reduces the cost of the same medication. I think it’s a unique format and a wonderful concept.”

Good Shepherd is licensed as a mail-order pharmacy. The foundation will refer its patients to the pharmacy for their prescription needs, and patients can contact Good Shepherd directly to arrange prescription fulfillment.

The foundation currently serves all 50 states, plus all U.S. territories. The partnership is in line with what Gilchrist told The Daily News earlier this year about her agenda that calls for the organization working to serve more people, raise more money and grow to become more of a regional entity with a higher profile.

Good Shepherd, meanwhile, has been pursuing its work thus far by offering members who pay a monthly fee the opportunity to be able to get their prescriptions at cost, with no markup. And a portion of each membership goes toward sponsoring a low-income member who can’t afford membership fees.

Baker recently won an award from the Tennessee Pharmacists Association for this work. The organization presented him with the 2017 TPA Excellence in Innovation Award, which is given out each year “to a pharmacist who has demonstrated significant innovation in practice, resulting in improved patient care and advancement of the profession of pharmacy.”

Baker founded Good Shepherd in 2015. In its first 19 months, Good Shepherd dispensed more than $3.3 million in donated medications to low-income patients and says it saved the Memphis-area health care system another $3 million in avoided health care costs.

Baker also worked with the state of Tennessee to develop a prescription reclamation program that would let unused medication donated by hospitals be dispensed to low-income patients.

His pharmacy’s work with the transplant foundation is one step toward an even larger goal – of having the same kind of impact, but on a much wider scale.

“There are other disease states – we could do any disease state, but we just want to develop a model we can definitely repeat,” he said, a reference to the transplant foundation partnership. “Our goal is we love the fact we’re saving people tons of money, but we want to go farther than that and show through our pharmacy program we can reduce total health care costs, trips to the emergency room, hospitalizations – the whole works.

“So the big savings is kind of our foot in the door to get partnered with these guys. But as we study these patients as we go along, we hope to show much greater improvements beyond that.”

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