When it Comes to Affordable Medication Access, Dr. Ross Phan Isn’t In Denial

Written by Lucia Mueller | Posted mayo 02, 2024

Ross Phan, PharmD, has decided to take her expertise to PharmacyChecker to lead its International Pharmacy Verification Program arm. The program was established in 2003 to help consumers identify trustworthy online pharmacies that work with licensed dispensing partners. With a career that spans various pharmacy practice settings, she notably excelled in overseeing compliance and operations at an independent pharmacy. Through her experience, she has helped many patients pinpoint barriers hindering progress toward achieving their individual health goals.

“As a pharmacist, I am interested in achieving positive health outcomes for patients,” said Dr. Phan. “An unfortunate theme, however, is the high cost of their chronic medications. I would hear ‘It’s between paying for my medications or the groceries’ or ‘It’s between paying for my medications or having the lights on.’”

The founding of PharmacyChecker.com, over 20 years ago, was based wholly on helping people find the lowest prices on prescription medication among licensed pharmacies. Ever since, our work has filled a critical need for a growing number of patients worldwide turning to the Internet to find affordable and accessible prescription medications, including from pharmacies outside their home country, without the necessary guidance to protect their health. Following Dr. Phan’s work in diverse communities, she agrees that the problem of inaccessible medication due to cost is pervasive and finds the issue is particularly pronounced “with the recent influx of precision medicines coming down the pipeline.”

According to the U.S. FDA, precision medicine is an innovative approach to patient care that accounts for a patient’s individual genes, environment, and lifestyle. “Something unique to the patient is being targeted — usually a particular gene, protein, substance,” says Dr. Phan. “So, precision medicine therapies may include targeted therapies for cancer, autoimmune diseases, and rare genetic conditions.” She says there are several biologic drugs that are actually monoclonal antibodies that attach to a patient’s specific cytokine (substance/protein) for autoimmune diseases. “They tend to be immunology products, specialty medications, or injections that have limited distribution or other restrictions, which plays a role in the high price tag of those medications. Although, that’s definitely not the entire picture: The high cost of healthcare is a multifactoral issue.”

For Phan, the fact that high prices in the U.S. put patients in a position where they are almost forced to look at foreign sourcing of their prescribed therapies is unconscionable. “This is a public health concern, especially for the growing older adult population, a group of patients that is usually on a fixed income and ineligible for easily accessible copay assistance programs.”

“Understandably, people will find ways to obtain less costly medications — like ordering prescriptions from abroad. Therefore, instead of being in denial about this, I would rather take up the challenge and help these individuals. I am committed to giving patients reliable, accurate, and balanced information to help them determine the next steps — alongside their healthcare providers — that are best for their current situation. If they decide that getting a prescription from abroad is the next best step for them, then I would like to ensure that the international pharmacies are safe through fair and rigorous audits and inspections.”

Have a question for Dr. Phan? Ask her a question here.

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