Cancer & Hematology Centers of Western Michigan launches cancer drug donation program

GRAND RAPIDS–Cancer & Hematology Centers of Western Michigan has launched a cancer drug repository program to accept qualified unused oral cancer drug donations from individuals so they can be used for free by another Michigan resident who meets specific eligibility criteria described in state law.

CHCWM was recently approved by the Michigan Board of Pharmacy to operate the program, which is sometimes called a “drug donation and reuse program.” Nationally, only 12 states have drug repository programs specific to unused cancer drugs, supplies, and devices. In Michigan, CHCWM is one of only a few cancer centers running drug repository programs.

The program’s goal is to improve access to treatment for low-income patients, lower costs for patients and payers, and reduce prescription drug waste.

“We treat all patients, regardless of their ability to pay,” said Haritha Reddy, MD, a practicing oncologist at the center who helped establish the program. “The high costs of drugs and the waste that can occur after a drug is dispensed make this program, and encouraging donations to it, certainly worthwhile. Everything we can do as a practice to help our patients combat high drug costs is extremely important.”

The average price of a newly launched cancer drug in 2021 was $283,000 per year, making the cost of drugs a large and increasing portion of cancer care’s financial burden. High drug costs, coupled with situations where oral anticancer drugs potentially go unused, spurred CHCWM to undertake this program for their patients.

Oral anticancer therapies may not be used for different reasons, including dose modifications, adverse drug reactions or stopping treatment. Nationally, researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center found that nearly $3 billion is lost annually to cancer drug waste.

“Our goal is to have 100 percent of donations prescribed for those in need,” said Kimberly Melgarejo, director of pharmacy at CHCWM. “Our drug repository program has strict quality-control processes to determine eligibility for drug donation and patient use. We’re measuring success based on the difference between donations made and used. We expect to use each eligible drug donated.”

Donations may be accepted by a licensed pharmacist and can be made at any CHCWM specialty retail pharmacy location Western Michigan. Each donation must meet the following criteria:

The item is in its original, unopened, tamper-evident unit dose packaging
There is no evidence that the drug has been adulterated or misbranded
The item has not been previously donated or resold
Medications are not controlled substances under federal or state law
Medications are not part of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s REMS drug safety program
Medications, as specified in manufacturer packaging, are stored at controlled room temperature
The original lot number and expiration date of the item are clearly visible
The expiration date of the item is at least 6 months later than the date on which it is donated

Donated drugs will be dispensed subsequent to a valid prescription by the Cancer & Hematology Centers of Western Michigan specialty retail pharmacy located on 145 Michigan Avenue, Grand Rapids, Suite 3100. Besides Michigan residency requirements, eligible patients must have a verified diagnosis of cancer and have filled out the proper forms. Patients who are uninsured or underinsured for the drug in question will be given priority followed by those enrolled in Medicaid, Medicare, or any other public assistance health care program.

Last year CHCWM joined the OneOncology national platform for independent oncology practices. The practice’s drug repository program is the latest example of how OneOncology practice partners work in their communities to care for all patients no matter their ability to pay.

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