Scleroderma Foundation Among Supporters to Improve Michigan Patients’ Access to Medications

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by José Lopes, PhD |

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Major healthcare organizations are throwing their support behind an initiative called “Let MI Doctors Decide” intended to improve patient access to prescribed medicines for scleroderma and other autoimmune disorders in Michigan.

“Let MI Doctors Decide” is spearheaded by the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA). Organizations joining a new task force to support the effort include the Scleroderma Foundation, Michigan ChapterMichigan Rheumatism SocietyHemophilia Foundation of Michigan (HFM); Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America, Michigan Chapter; and the American Behcet’s Disease Association (ABDA).

“No matter their medical condition, seriously ill patients need access to the right medicines as prescribed by their doctors. We look forward to working with our new task force partners and health insurers across Michigan to empower patients and physicians to make the right treatment decisions for their individual needs,” Virginia Ladd, AARDA president and executive director, said in press release.

Insurance companies usually require patients to try several medications before they help cover the cost of a specific medicine prescribed by their doctors. This practice is known as “step therapy,” and often results in severely ill patients not having access to the treatments they need.

Results from a recent Lake Research Partners poll showed that about 7 out of 10 Michigan consumers view step therapy negatively, and that 95 percent of respondents think doctors — not an insurance company — should define treatment.

“Patients and their treating physicians should decide which treatment(s) is the best for a particular patient. Patients should not have access denied, delayed, or disrupted to a better treatment option based on the use of preferred drugs usually selected for financial reasons,” the Michigan Rheumatism Society said in a statement.

“Let MI Doctors Decide” aims to empower patients and doctors facing step therapy by increasing awareness and providing them with tools and resources.

These resources include an online patient guide with advice on working with doctors and insurance companies, information on how to appeal health insurance companies’ decisions, as well as reports from patients and doctors on their experiences with step therapy.

The new task force will add to these resources by developing explanatory videos and a scorecard addressing step therapy practices.

“Raising awareness of step therapy is critical for patients with scleroderma and other diseases that are difficult to diagnose. For these patients, one of the keys to effective treatment is the ability to work together with their doctor to find the right medication for their unique symptoms, and step therapy interferes with that process. We look forward to working on the Let MI Doctors Decide task force to help arm these patients with the resources to navigate step therapy and get the treatment they need,” said a statement from the Scleroderma Foundation, Michigan Chapter.

AARDA is the only U.S. nonprofit organization addressing autoimmune diseases. It builds collaborations in the areas of public awareness, education, research, and patient services to minimize patients’ suffering and the socioeconomic impact of autoimmune disorders, with the ultimate goal of eradicating them.

“Those suffering from autoimmune disease are not alone in struggling with the negative impacts of step therapy,” Ladd said. “This harmful practice poses serious risks for patients suffering from a variety of medical conditions. The new task force represents a major step forward as we work to ensure that insurance companies are held accountable for how they choose to give patients access to needed medicines.”