West Virginia charity pharmacy expands

October 8, 2009
Christine Blank
Christine Blank

Contributing Editor Christine Blank is a freelance writer based in Florida.

With a mail-order pharmacy license granted by the West Virginia Board of Pharmacy, West Virginia Rx becomes the largest charity pharmacy in the nation.

Key Points

The West Virginia Board of Pharmacy recently granted West Virginia Rx a mail-order pharmacy license, which will allow it to serve more than 12,500 patients and become the largest charity pharmacy in the nation.

"We're approving people every day, around 50 to 60 a day," said Brenda Dane, executive director of West Virginia Rx. The license is helping facilitate membership in the program as well as agreements with Charleston-area hospitals and Partners in Health, which serves 13 counties around the Charleston area, where the charity pharmacy is located.

According to a West Virginia law passed in 2008, all charitable pharmacies in the state must be licensed. "We got our license, we got our oversight, and that helps us increase our relationship with drug companies," Dane said.

Meanwhile, West Virginia Rx is expanding, adding 10,000 patients from Partners in Health and hospitals that provide charity care in West Virginia. "After all the systems got built, we went to all the points of entry, including charity-care patients at hospitals, who are at 200 percent of the federal poverty level. The idea was to absorb those patients for medications," Dane said.

The West Virginia Health Clinic, which has been established for several years, includes a pharmacy of 18,000 square feet. West Virginia Rx works out of the building, serving as an entry point for patients who need charity medications.

West Virginia Rx maintains a central database of charity-care patients from hospitals and partners, so patients' medications and medical histories are already in the system. This enables eligible patients to receive free medications more quickly than is typical with charity programs. "We have access to all of the eligibility documents that came in through charity care. We don't have to wait on anything," Dane said.

Prescriptions are mailed from doctors and patients, filled at the pharmacy, and mailed directly to patients, who also have the option of picking up their prescriptions at the West Virginia Health Clinic. The clinic lets West Virginia Rx use its "pharmacist in charge," and it has one pharmacy technician.

West Virginia Rx started e-prescribing at the end of August. "Electronically sending and receiving prescriptions means a faster and more efficient way to get medications dispensed to West Virginia Rx members," Dane said.

The expansion is needed: According to Dane's calculations, approximately 225,000 people in West Virginia qualify for free pharmacy services. "There were 400,000 people who were underinsured for more than six months in 2008. Out of that, between 200,000 and 225,000 are qualified and eligible for what we do," Dane said.