Ga. tests new plan for distributing HIV drugs – ADAP patients complain about needing appointments to pick up meds
Posted by pozlife on May 25, 2007
Ga. tests new plan for distributing HIV drugs
ADAP patients complain about needing appointments to pick up meds
By RYAN LEE
MAY. 25, 2007
The Georgia Department of Human Resources is examining its guidelines for how county health agencies distribute HIV medications to people enrolled in the state’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program, with a spokesperson from the DeKalb County’s Board of Health admitting “it’s a customer service issue that we desperately need to improve.”
More than 3,400 Georgians receive medications from ADAP, a federally funded program that provides the vital drugs to people who cannot afford them. Each of those clients is currently required to make an appointment with their local county health departments every time they pick up medications, but a new pilot program is exploring the convenience of allowing ADAP enrollees to pick up their medications from a local commercial pharmacy.
“The project seeks to enhance HIV/AIDS patients’ access to medication by contracting with local pharmacies that dispense medication for ADAP consumers,” said DHR spokesperson Taka Wiley.
The Alternative Methods Distribution Project is being tested in the Macon and Columbus areas, as well as in Cobb and Douglas counties, Wiley said.
“Presently, all ADAP participants are served by the centralized pharmacy services of Grady Memorial Hospital, with the exception of the participants in the [pilot program],” Wiley added.
The combination of Grady’s pharmacy being the only artery pumping lifesaving drugs to county health agencies across the state, and those county systems requiring ADAP participants to schedule an appointment to receive their medications, could potentially lead to hazardous delays in patients receiving their medications, according to at least one ADAP participant.
“Not only are the meds shipped late [from Grady], and then when they do arrive [at the county health system], which is past your appointment date, you’ve got to turn around and still make another appointment for two weeks later than that,” said a 44-year-old gay man who receives medications from the DeKalb County Board of Health and asked to be identified as “Kevin.”
He asked that his identity be withheld because he doesn’t want to publicly disclose his HIV status and he fears his service at the DeKalb County Board of Health would worsen if he complained publicly.
DeKalb officials recommend ADAP clients make appointments 30 days prior to needing new medications, but said patients can be “worked-in” on an emergency basis within an average of two or three days. Appointments with doctors are intended to “ensure patients who are receiving medications are not experiencing any adverse reaction,” said Vicki Elisa, a spokesperson for the DeKalb County Board of Health.
DeKalb County has only one doctor attending to the 264 patients enrolled in the county’s ADAP system, and delays with the appointment process have “to deal with human resources and availability,” Elisa said.
“Are we like other clinics [or commercial pharmacies]? No,” Elisa said. “We recognize it’s a customer service issue that we desperately need to improve. It’s something we have spoken about, looking at addressing and see what we can do to expedite the situation as quickly as possible.”
The DeKalb County Board of Health recently implemented a “drop-in” day that allows ADAP participants to pick up their medications without an appointment on Mondays after 4:15 p.m., Elisa said. Officials are looking into adding more drop-in days and hiring more staff, but there is no timeline for further action, Elisa added.
Rather than a visit to the pharmacy, picking up ADAP medications is considered a clinician visit, said Pradnya Tambe, director of the Fulton County STD/HIV clinic. In addition to closely monitoring patients, requiring an appointment to pick up medications reduces the chaos in an often hectic public health clinic, Tambe said.
“It’s a very crowded clinic and we have limited space,” she said. “It becomes very difficult because we don’t have that kind of extra staff who can work with those clients.”