Latest NPDP News

Latest NPDP News

Reducing cost, increasing access, improving health

4/21/2010 5:53:33 PM
By Shavaughn Moss ~ Lifestyles Editor ~ shavaughn@nasguard.com


Estella Whylly is a diabetic, she's hypertensive and has a thyroid problem.

To control these diseases she has to take seven tablets daily — Diovan, Adalat and Natrilix for her high blood pressure, Diamiciron for her diabetes, Lipitor for her high cholesterol, Prednisone for her thyroid problem and aspirin for her heart.

These are medications if purchased from a pharmacy, and according to the dosage she takes could run this pensioner into at least $300 per month or $3,600 annually — quite a hefty chunk of change.

To offset this expense Whylly, who is confined to a wheelchair has been getting her prescription medications from the government hospital and clinics. Not an ideal scenario for the mother of three who has to rely on her working children to shuttle her back and forth. She has to get up as early as 4 a.m. to get to the Princess Margaret Hospital for 6 a.m. so that she could "get an early number" to receive her medication and also get out of her working children's way so that they can get to their jobs, according to her daughter Sharon, who says the siblings usually have to return in the middle of the day to shuttle their 77-year-old mother home.

When the elder Whylly heard about the National Prescription Drug Plan (NPDP) which will provide prescription medication for persons who suffer from one or more of 11 specified chronic diseases free-of-charge in the first phase and at minimal cost in later phases she was proactive in signing up for it. For Whylly, the NPDP could mean an end to her early morning jaunts as she could pick up her medication from a pharmacy.

"We live in Carmichael and have two pharmacies in the area that are close to our home so we could just go to the pharmacy for our mother's medication as opposed to having to go to the clinics," said Sharon, 42, who says what she's heard of the NPDP she considers it a good idea.

"My mother has to be at the hospital or clinic early, so she gets up at 4 a.m. and by 6 a.m. she's on the road because she wants to get an early number. Then, with the clinics, you have to get there at a certain time because they close for lunch, then sometimes you meet a line . . . sometimes they don't have the medication, so it's good if we could just pick up the medication from the pharmacy," she said."

The NPDP, a national health initiative by the government seeks to help improve access to health care and enhance quality of life for Bahamians and make prescription drugs available to all persons with certain chronic conditions — arthritis, asthma, breast cancer, diabetes, glaucoma, high cholesterol, hypertension, ischemic heart disease, major depression, prostate cancer and psychosis.

The plan which is expected to make life easier for persons like Whylly is scheduled to come on stream in mid-June, according to Tami Francis, manager of the National Prescription Drug Plan, who is charged with the responsibility of supervising execution of any activities in meeting all of the policies, priorities and targets set with the national drug plan and the National Insurance Board (NIB).

WHO IS ELIGIBLE?
The drug plan is being rolled out in phases. They are currently in the first phase and started registering persons on February 22.

Persons eligible for the first phase include NIB pensioners, NIB invalids, Bahamian citizens over 65 years of age who are not eligible to receive an NIB pension, and children under 18 years of age (or under age 25 years if in school full time) who have been diagnosed with one or more of the conditions listed above.

The initial phase covers all groups of persons who are currently eligible to receive free medications at public facilities — children and the elderly as well as the invalid. When the first group officially rolls out, Francis says it will help them iron out any kinks in the system before they open up to the entire population.

The key to the program though is the prescribed medication must be a part of the NPDP's formulary (drug list). The elder Whylly's prescribed diabetic medications must be on the NPDP list for her to be able to get them free of charge at a private pharmacy. If a prescribed drug is not on the list, patients have the option of either purchasing the drug as they would have done before the plan, or looking at the NPDP's formulary book and changing to something that is there. If they purchase the drug at a private pharmacy they do not get reimbursed.

In the second phase, which does not yet have a start date, Francis says they will cover employed and self-employed persons, voluntarily ensured persons, any person who is considered indigent, and is not covered in the first phase, government workers and everybody else including persons in government institutions — prisons and industrial schools.

WHY IS THE NPDP IMPORTANT?
The NPDP manager says there is a high prevalence of chronic diseases, and many persons needing to access care and being able to access the medications will allow persons to manage their conditions better and possibly improve the health of Bahamian society.

To date approximately 6,000 persons have registered for the national drug plan, according to Francis, who expects up to 35,000 or one-third of persons to be registered by the time they roll out in mid-June.

In spite of the numbers trickling in to register, Francis says the plan is being welcomed and anticipated by a lot of persons, because like Whylly, many persons have more than one or two conditions to treat, which she says can be costly.

She further said the plan will also seek to address healthy lifestyles and wellness projects, so they're not only looking at treating the illness, but preventing the illness and conditions.


LIST OF COVERED DISEASES
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Breast cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Glaucoma
  • High cholesterol
  • Hypertension
  • Ischemic heart disease
  • Major depression
  • Prostate cancer
  • Psychosis

WHO IS ELIGIBLE IN FIRST PHASE

  • NIB pensioners
  • NIB invalids
  • Bahamian citizens over 65 years of age who are not eligible to receive an NIB pension
  • Children under 18 years (or under age 25 years if in school full-time) who have been diagnosed with one or more of the conditions listed above.

HOW THE PLAN WILL WORK
It will be managed by NIB

Public and private pharmacies will be contracted to provide drugs approved by the National Prescription Drug Plan

Registered members will receive a swipe card from the NPDP which they must present to any participating pharmacy at the time of filing/claiming their prescription.

Once the claim is accepted, the prescription items will be given to the member and the pharmacist will submit the claim to the NPDP for payment.


COST AND FUNDING
In the first phase there will be no cost to members as funding will come from NIB.

In the second phase, funding will be derived from mixed sources, including government grants, small payroll deduction from workers, co-ordination of benefits with private insurers and a small co-payment.

This article can also be found on the Nassau Guardian website.
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