Friday, May 19, 2017

PAN Foundation Opens HIV Prevention & Treatment Fund

By: Brandon M. Macsata, CEO, ADAP Advocacy Association

The Patient Access Network (PAN) Foundation — a corporate partner of the ADAP Advocacy Association — announced that it opened its fund for HIV Prevention And Treatment. Presently, there are 56 HIV-related medications covered by this program.

Apply Online at
The PAN Foundation is accepting applications for new and renewal patients. People needing financial reprieve from the cost of their HIV-related medications are eligible for assistance up to $3,400 per year (additional assistance may be available, subject to the availability of funding). In fact, nearly 60 disease-specific assistance programs to help patients pay for their out-of-pocket costs are made available by the organization.

The PAN Foundation is an independent, national 501 (c)(3) organization dedicated to helping underinsured patients with chronic and critical illnesses afford their out-of-pocket medical expenses. Over the last thirteen years, they have provided more than 700,000 underinsured patients with over $2.5 billion dollars in financial assistance.[1]

Patients and advocates can apply for PAN assistance by phone at (866-316-7263) or online (Click here to start the application online).

[1] Patient Access Network Foundation (2017).

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Communication is key in creating an environment for shared decision-making

By: Kathleen D. Gallagher, MPH, Patient Advocate Foundation, and Rebecca Kirch, JD, National Patient Advocate Foundation

Patients and families confronting chronic, debilitating or life-threatening conditions at any age and any disease stage require reliable and affordable access to high quality therapies and supportive services throughout the care continuum in the settings that are best for them to optimize their outcomes and experiences. Yet today’s disease-centric care is fragmented across multiple specialists, subspecialists and settings, creating pressures to navigate pathways-driven treatments that overlook quality of life, functional outcomes, other personal priorities or individual characteristics that matter a great deal to patients and their families.

We know that patients rarely experience their symptoms as one isolated problem and can benefit from care that is truly person-centered and involves shared decision making. To accomplish this person-centered health care transformation, knowing precisely what is important to patients and families is paramount. Progress also requires dedicated commitment to enhancing clinical communication that is person-centered and goal-directed – learned skills that are essential drivers for delivering value-based care.

Photo Source:

Better health care value begins with improved communication about goals of care and personal values. Patients and families consistently report that they want to be involved in understanding their disease prognosis and treatment options and making decisions about their care. We chose to address these concerns as part of a grant funded project through targeted online survey efforts. Our primary goal was to examine multiple thematic areas from a broad patient perspective designed to explore the dimensions of what matters to patients.

The following highlights the preliminary analysis of some of the data collected from our virology cohort (HIV+ patients), specifically around the theme of communication. Survey participants were asked a series of 5 questions to gather information on how they wanted to receive health information, how involved they wanted to be in making healthcare related decisions, discussing what matters to them when selecting a treatment option, and their comfort level in broaching the conversation about quality of life with their doctor.

When asked, “how do you like to approach making decisions about your treatment” over 65% of the respondents wanted to make decisions in partnership with their medical versus the 14% who wanted to make their decisions alone or the 5% wanted the physician to make the choice for them. An additional 14% wanted their doctor to explain all of the options to them in detail before working together to make a treatment choice. The message from this data point is clear and supports our hypothesis that patients want dialog and information from their medical team and they want to be partners in making treatment choices.

In regards to doctor initiated conversations about things that are important to the patient in their care (non-clinical outcomes) 60% of respondents stated that their doctor did ask them about “what is important to you as part of making plans for your treatment”. Although this data point is encouraging, what was most compelling was that over 95% of those who answered in the affirmative, followed this question with a positive response to the question “did you feel that your doctor took that information into account when making recommendations”. So not only were the able to have the conversation – but their input was valued and used to identify and select a treatment option that was of value to them.

While only a small selection of the 100+ questions asked in the Patient Value Survey, the preliminary data gathered around patient-provider conversation in regards to treatment and care is encouraging. Historically, the HIV population have been the groundbreakers and drivers of action and having a voice in the way their chronic condition is treated. As we continue to use the collected data to drive a better understanding of what matters to patients, and how best to equip them for conversations about their comprehensive care and planning treatments that provide them the quality of life that they are seeking, we will continue to reach out to our non-profit partners to ensure that all voices are being heard.

Disclaimer: Guest blogs do not necessarily reflect the views of the ADAP Advocacy Association, but rather they provide a neutral platform whereby the author serves to promote open, honest discussion about public health-related issues and updates. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

AHCA Passed the House Today; Do Not Panic

By: Jen Laws, Board Member, ADAP Advocacy Association, and HIV/transgender health advocate

The American Health Care Act ("AHCA") is not the law of the land...but rather it still is the Affordable Care Act ("ACA") governing our nation's healthcare framework. Let’s preface this fact with the message advocates have been stumping for months: stay vigilant, stay active, and stay on top of your elected representatives. For policy “wonks” and advocates assessing how potential legislation affects the American public, policy impact matters just as much as the political environment.

The American Health Care Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives on the narrowest of margins at 217-213. Twenty Republicans voted “no” on deep concerns of both negative impact on access and quality of care, and due to their seats being vulnerable in the 2018 midterm election (Roll Call, 2017). This vote took three months, one failed vote earlier this year, and days of “arm twisting in the cloak room” to make it happen. For the culture of the House, it is somewhat extraordinary in modern times. Now the legislation rests in the hands of the U.S. Senate.

Vote totals on passage of the American Health Care Act
Photo Source: C-SPAN

The Senate, while subject to more of the weight of Presidential politics, is a different beast entirely (Washington Post, 2017). Presidential politics plays both in favor for those Senators aligned with the President and against those from contentious states due to vulnerability of the seats. With a narrow Republican majority in the Senate, the coming months will see the divisions of the House amplified and thus weakening the possibility of the AHCA in its current form (or any form for that matter) passing the Senate. Additionally, once a Congressional Budget Office “score” is available, the Senate parliamentarian must assess if the bill meets the requirements of the “Byrd rule” as the AHCA is a “reconciliation” measure. Amendments added to the bill as it moves through the Senate committees will further change the CBO score and may make passage even less likely.

Among topics of concern with the bill are popular ACA provisions like consumer protections regarding pre-existing conditions, annual and lifetime limits, and the ability for children to stay on their parents’ coverage until the age of twenty-six. Less popular, though still maintaining wide support is the Medicaid expansion. The AHCA weakens these provisions by giving states the option to “opt out” of Essential Health Benefits, attacking Community Health Ratings, and forming “risk pools” for people with pre-existing conditions. Of note, independent analysis has shown that to adequately fund state risk pools, the AHCA would need to provide for $25 billion of funding. Currently, the AHCA only offers $8 billion over the course of 5 years. The ACA provided for $5 billion and ran out of funds at the 3rd year. The AHCA also structures “punishments” for those who experience lapses in coverage and older Americans. Combining these facts with substituting current subsidies with tax credits, people will face greater likelihood of lapse in coverage and increases in rates due to being unable to afford coverage in the first place. All while cutting funding and adding caps to state Medicaid programs.

Medicaid funding cuts are of special note as Medicaid expansion has eased the burden of other assistance programs like state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs, shortening waiting lists for services, and providing direct and continuous care opportunities for the most vulnerable of the American public.

The aforementioned issues will continue to be the center of the debate on the AHCA and why the CBO has scored the AHCA to cause tens of millions to lose coverage over projected 10 years following implementation.

Differing views in the Senate that label the health care programming and policy as “entitlement” will compete strongly with the attitudes of moderate Republicans that the government should provide protections and an avenue of care for their constituents and consensus will be exceptionally difficult to find. What’s likely to bring moderates on board will alienate Libertarian-minded Republicans, and vice versa. Democrats are expected to behave as a “blue wall” and vote as a caucus against the AHCA. The two Democrat Senators to watch will be Joe Manchin (WV) and Heidi Heitkamp (ND), as the most likely to indicate if the AHCA may gain even a single blue vote and thus is altered enough to gain a moderate majority.

Photo of West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin III and North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp
Photo Source:

The best way for constituents and advocates to make their voices known is, and will always be, to call their elected representatives offices, both at home and in DC, show up to town hall meetings, and take action with advocacy organizations aligned with their values.

You can find your Representative’s contact information here:

You can find your Senator’s contact information here:

Disclaimer: Guest blogs do not necessarily reflect the views of the ADAP Advocacy Association, but rather they provide a neutral platform whereby the author serves to promote open, honest discussion about public health-related issues and updates. 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Could New Research Pave Way for Official Guidelines for the Treatment of Lipohypertrophy

By: Brandon M. Macsata, CEO, ADAP Advocacy Association

There purports to be an "obesity epidemic" in the United States,[1] though strong evidence suggests that people can be healthy at every size.[2] Data shows from 1960-2002, in the United States the average male weighed 25 pounds more and average female weighed 24 pounds more. Putting the debate over obesity aside, undesirable weight gain for many people living with HIV/AIDS is often grudgingly accepted as normal. This paradigm could soon be changing because new research could pave the way for better guidelines for treating HIV-related weight gain — namely, Lipohypertrophy.

Example of lipohypertrophy – Man
Photo Source:

Research published in the Clinical Infectious Diseases by a panel of international authors (U.S., Canada, Europe) from 12 universities represents a consensus opinion on the diagnosis, clinical consequences and treatment of excess fat in adults with treated HIV infection. The groundbreaking study offers some hope to people living with HIV-infection concerned about facial wasting, belly fat, lipomas, or the dreaded "buffalo hump" on the back of the neck.

The publication, "Practical Review of Recognition and Management of Obesity and Lipohypertrophy in Human Immunodeficiency Virus Infection," concludes, "Both generalized obesity and lipohypertrophy are prevalent among HIV-infected persons on ART. Aggressive diagnosis and management are key to the prevention and treatment of end-organ disease in this population, and critical to the present and future health of HIV-infected persons."

Among the research findings, management of HIV-related weight gain includes lifestyle changes in diet and exercise, though there was "insufficient data to support any specific dietary or exercise strategy in patients with HIV and abdominal obesity."[3] Changes in anti-retroviral therapy is also suggested, since some of the new medications have less side-effects.[4] Medical interventions are also identified as viable options — including Growth Hormone (GH) Axis Therapy and Metformin.[5] Finally, surgical interventions are also included in the options identified by the authors.[6]

The research findings are already gaining attention in respected HIV news publications, too.

The ADAP Advocacy Association sees promise in the report findings for patients suffering from a condition for which treating physicians are paying little attention, and in many cases where payors — including many State ADAPs — are excluding coverage for treatment options approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. In late 2016, we urged the Health Resources and Services Administration ("HRSA") to update to the Guide for HIV/AIDS Clinical Care. The national sign-on letter wasn't an endorsement of a specific product or treatment, but rather an attempt to afford patients suffering from HIV-associated lipodystrophy syndrome the opportunity to access the available treatment options (all of which were identified in the aforementioned research).

HRSA now has a template for updating its treatment guidelines. It is up to the federal agency to respond to the needs to the patients!

Read our related blogs on this topic:

[1] Rauh, Sherry (2010); Is Fat the New Normal? A rise in average body weight may be changing how we see ourselves. WebMD. Retrieved from
[2] Bacon, Linda (2010, May 4); Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight; BenBella Books. Retrieved from
[3] Lake, Jordan E., et. al (2017, February 24); Clinical Infectious Diseases; Practical Review of Recognition and Management of Obesity and Lipohypertrophy in Human Immunodeficiency Virus Infection; Oxford University Press. Retrieved from
[4] Lake, Jordan E., et. al (2017, February 24); Clinical Infectious Diseases; Practical Review of Recognition and Management of Obesity and Lipohypertrophy in Human Immunodeficiency Virus Infection; Oxford University Press. Retrieved from
[5] Lake, Jordan E., et. al (2017, February 24); Clinical Infectious Diseases; Practical Review of Recognition and Management of Obesity and Lipohypertrophy in Human Immunodeficiency Virus Infection; Oxford University Press. Retrieved from
[6] Lake, Jordan E., et. al (2017, February 24); Clinical Infectious Diseases; Practical Review of Recognition and Management of Obesity and Lipohypertrophy in Human Immunodeficiency Virus Infection; Oxford University Press. Retrieved from

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Linkages to Care - Plugging the Treatment Gap: Navigating Patient Assistance Programs

By: Brandon M. Macsata, CEO, ADAP Advocacy Association

In the United States, everyone hates how insurance companies "stick" it to consumers. There is pretty much universal agreement that the cost of prescription drugs are too high. There is also near consensus that the marketplace plans under the Affordable Care Act ("ACA") have caused a lot of headaches for patients with chronic conditions  including HIV/AIDS  especially with respect to the high tier drug plans. It is no wonder that so many cracks exist within the current healthcare framework. Fortunately, there also exist patient assistance programs ("PAPs") designed to plug the treatment gaps for these patients. PAPs serve as key linkages to care...and treatment!

According to, "Commonly referred to as PAPs, Patient Assistance Programs are services offered by pharmaceutical companies for those who cannot afford their medication. Patient assistance programs are available to low-income individuals or families who are under-insured or uninsured and are provided to those who meet the eligibility guidelines. Assistance may range from reduced cost of drugs to free medicine. Each drug that a company offers will have its own unique program and may even have a different eligibility requirement than the other drugs they offer. As there is no unified standard of designation for these programs, you may also see them referred to as medication assistance programs, indigent drug programs, and charitable drug programs."[1]

Pharmacist standing in front of the pharmacy with prescriptions.
Photo Source:
PAPs are vitally important to patients living with chronic conditions. They not only improve access to care and treatment, but they also save consumers money and reduce lost productivity. They also benefit the drug manufacturers because PAPs keep patients (would-be consumers) in treatment. The data shared by the Partnership for Prescription Assistance ("PPA") — which connects qualifying patients with the assistance program that’s right for them — is mind-blowing.

Celebrating its 12-year anniversary, PPA recently reported that its website is visited by over 75,000 consumers per month and makes available information on more than 475 patient assistance programs. It also offers a database of nearly 10,000 free or low-cost health care clinics across the country. Over 10 million consumers have been helped since the program's inception.[2]

Aside from the resources made available to consumers directly from the drug manufacturers, there also exists other patient-centric organizations designed to assist patients with prescriptions, discount drug cards, and other patient resources. Just to name a few, they include the Patient Access Network Foundation ("PAN"), Patient Advocate Foundation ("PAF"), and NeedyMeds. Each of these organizations serve as vital linkages to care for social workers, case managers, and allied health professionals assisting patients. These organizations also each partner with the ADAP Advocacy Association.

In an effort to raise awareness about patient assistance program and how they serve people living with HIV/AIDS and/or viral hepatitis, we will host an educational training webinar on May 31, 2017. The webinar, "Plugging the Treatment Gap: Navigating Patient Assistance Program," will showcase important information about these patient-centric PAPs. It will provide webinar attendees with a greater understanding about patient assistance programs, tools for how to navigate patient assistance programs to best assist patient needs, strategies for better seamless delivery of health-related care and treatment, and useful resources and tools to plug the treatment gap.

Registration is open to all stakeholders. Registration is complimentary for PASWHA members, and it is also complimentary for patients living with HIV/AIDS. Use this scholarship link if you are a patient living with HIV/AIDS applying for a webinar scholarship.

Additional information about the webinar is available online at

[1] (2014); The Catalyst; What are Patient Assistance Programs?;, Inc. Retrieved from
[2] Mooney, Hannah (2017, April 5); 12 years of the Partnership of Prescription Assistance; Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America®. Retrieved from

Friday, April 7, 2017

Is it Time for a Reset to the Ryan White CARE Act?

By: Brandon M. Macsata, CEO, ADAP Advocacy Association

It has been almost 27 years since the mother of a young boy dying of AIDS received a phone call from the late Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), asking if it would be okay to attach the boy's name on federal legislation.1 That young boy's name was Ryan White, and it has become synonymous with the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act (Ryan White CARE Act). Since 1990, it has saved countless lives of people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States. The law is due to be re-authorized by Congress, and some are asking if the time is right for a "re-set" so that the supports and services authorized under the law better reflect the state of the epidemic.

HIV surveillance data reveals some interesting trends about the epidemiology of the disease over time. Diagnosis of HIV infection demonstrates that some things have remained constant, such as men who sex with men (MSM) and intravenous drug use (IDU) represent two of the high-risk transmissions groups. But today, HIV infection disproportionately impacts communities of color, as well as people living in rural areas of the country. Heterosexual woman and adolescents are also greatly at risk for HIV infection.

The following charts published by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) help to explain the trends in HIV diagnoses in the United States between 2010 - 2014:2

Photo Source: CDC

Photo Source: CDC

Photo Source: CDC
According to the CDC, "The South now experiences the greatest burden of HIV infection, illness, and deaths of any U.S. region, and lags far behind in providing quality HIV prevention and care to its citizens." It begs the question, shouldn't the federal government adopt a "money follows the person" paradigm to reflect the changing epidemiology?

Some of the important questions surrounding Ryan White reauthorization include the following:
  • should funding stream formulas count cumulative AIDS cases or only living HIV-positive people?
  • should wrap-around services be expanded for clients who have Medicare Part D, Medicaid or Veterans Affairs healthcare?
  • should coverage include inpatient hospital care?
  • should coverage include Hepatitis C (HCV) drug therapies?
  • should commercial health insurance premium assistance programs be liberalized?
"At a time when we have the most effective and simple HIV treatments and a very volatile healthcare insurance landscape, WE NEED the Ryan White safety net program for continuity - less we forget without care and treatment HIV is a deadly and transmissible disease," summarized David Poole, Director of Legislative Affairs at AIDS Healthcare Foundation."

Next week this issue will be discussed at the ADAP Advocacy Association's AIDS Drug Assistance Program Regional Summit in Raleigh, North Carolina. "Ryan White & Service Delivery Systems in the Age of Budget Austerity" is one of the topics on the agenda with leading policy stakeholders concerned about the future of the program, and potential impact on patients living with HIV/AIDS and other underserved populations.

For complete information about the Ryan White CARES Act please visit

[1] Groppe, Maureen (2014, July 30); Future of Ryan White program not clear; JConline. Retrieved from
[2] National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention (2017, March 24); HIV Surveillance—Epidemiology of HIV Infection (through 2015); Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Retrieved from
[3] Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (2016); HIV in the Southern United States; Retrieved from: 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

340B Program: Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater

By: Brandon M. Macsata, CEO, ADAP Advocacy Association

The pharmaceutical industry and other interest groups have lobbied Congress to "reform" the 340B Drug Pricing Program, which they claim is riddled with waste, fraud, and abuse. Abound are damaging audits and reports that certainly back up the claim, except this over-generalization can be dangerous. Whereas hospitals are the program's primary participating vendors, there are many other smaller entities that also leverage the discounts on prescription drugs to assist their clients. No better example exists than the Ryan White covered entities, including Ryan White clinics, State AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs), and other safety net providers.

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) summarizes the 340B Drug Pricing program as follows:
"The 340B Drug Pricing Program requires drug manufacturers to provide outpatient drugs to eligible health care organizations/covered entities at significantly reduced prices. The 340B Program enables covered entities to stretch scarce Federal resources as far as possible, reaching more eligible patients and providing more comprehensive services. Eligible health care organizations/covered entities are defined in statute and include HRSA-supported health centers and look-alikes, Ryan White clinics and State AIDS Drug Assistance programs, Medicare/Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospitals, children’s hospitals, and other safety net providers."[1]
It is understandable why the drug manufacturers — most of which are required by law to to provide significant discounts (20-50%) off drug pricing— would be concerned about the growth of the program. Total sales under the program increased from $1.1 billion in 1997 to more than $7 billion in 2013,[2] and quickly climbing toward $20 billion. There are plenty of shenanigans with hospitals boosting their profits rather than providing supports and services for low-income and uninsured patients.[3] A recent study concluded, “Our findings support the criticism that the 340B program is being converted from one that serves vulnerable patient populations to one that enriches hospitals and their affiliated clinics.”[4]

Some in Congress are also alarmed. Senator Charles E. Grassley (R-IA) is chief among them, arguing a few years back, "Congress needs to know the extent to which the agency believes it lacks the statutory authority to ensure that hospitals use the 340B program to help the uninsured receive affordable prescription drugs. Medicare and private insurance are paying much more for some drugs than the hospitals paid because of the program discount. Congress needs a full picture of how hospitals are using the program and how their uses affect other programs in the health care system.[5]

Photo Source: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images
But there is an age-old saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater."

Earlier this year, Harish Thiagaraj authored a detailed report on how AIDS Service Organizations (ASOs) — some of which are Ryan White covered entities — have served as the poster child for the success of the 340B Drug Pricing Program. Thiagaraj accurately notes that proposed "reforms" to the program would leave such HIV entities largely untouched,[6] but there is no guarantee that harmful changes, or unintended consequences couldn't result from the programmatic reforms targeting large hospitals.

The study concludes:
"Those in the 340B industry realize that the 340B Drug Discount Program runs much more deeply than lower cost prescriptions. It provides treatment for those who are seriously ill. Its savings go towards valuable community services. Its creation was born out of necessity, and program growth directly correlates with better health and outcomes, which the Ryan White clinics’ achievements exemplify."[7]
Thiagaraj's assessment couldn't be more accurate, and we applaud him. Ryan White covered entities participating in the 340B Drug Discount Program have contributed to achieving viral suppression, and more needs to be done. The savings are re-invested back into the clinics, thereby allowing them to offer much needed supports and services to their clients.

Source: Wellpartner
That said, it is important that the integrity of the program is protected.

"The 340B program has been challenged since its inception," summarized Jeffrey R. Lewis, President and Chief Executive Officer at Legacy Health Endowment. "The challenge today is to ensure that the program is operating the way Congress intended. To accomplish this, Legacy Health Endowment will be organizing a national commission to recommend specific ways to ensure the long term solvency of the 340B program, and to determine what changes may need to be made to ensure that the program does not exceed its Congressionally mandated purpose."

Next month this issue will be discussed at the ADAP Advocacy Association's AIDS Drug Assistance Program Regional Summit in Raleigh, North Carolina. "Ryan White & 340B Drug Access" is one of the topics on the agenda with leading policy stakeholders concerned about the future of the program, and potential impact on patients living with HIV/AIDS and other underserved populations.

[1] Health Resources and Services Administration (2017). 340B Drug Pricing Program. U.S. Department of Health & Human Resources. Retrieved from: 
[2] Vandervelde, Aaron (November 2014). GROWTH OF THE 340B PROGRAM: PAST TRENDS, FUTURE PROJECTIONS. Berkley Research Group. Retrieved from:
[3] Adamopoulos, Helen (2014, October 7). Are hospitals abusing the 340B drug discount program? New study reignites controversy. Becker's Hospital CFO. Retrieved from:
[4] Myers, Nan (2016, May 31). Concerns Persist about the 340B Program. Pharmacy Times. Retrieved from:
[5] Sen. Charles Grassley (2013, October 13). Grassley: Questions Continue About 340B Discount Drug Program. United States Senate. Retrieved from:
[6] Thiagaraj, Harish (2017, January 18). The 340B Drug Pricing Program Success Story: Ryan White HIV Entities," 2017. Wellpartner. Retrieved from: 
[7] Thiagaraj, Harish (2017, January 18). The 340B Drug Pricing Program Success Story: Ryan White HIV Entities," 2017. Wellpartner. Retrieved from: