IC Awareness Fact #19 - Drug Assistance Programs

Drug Assistance Programs Can Help Patients Struggling To Pay For Treatment

There is no doubt that the cost of treating interstitial cystitis and bladder pain syndrome are increasing. Elmiron®, the only FDA approved oral medication for IC, can cost some patients more than $1500 per month. (Elmiron® is now linked to retinal disease and blindness).  Bladder instillations can cost several hundred dollars per treatment. Surgical therapies, such as Interstim, can cost over $100,000 if not covered by insurance.

For patients who have no choice but to use some medication, you may also be eligible for the “Patient Assistance” or “Drug Assistance” programs offered by most pharmaceutical companies. Generally, applicants must be very low income to receive free medication from the companies. The ICN maintains a list of of these programs in our Drug Assistance Program Center.

Strategies For Saving Money on Medication

  1. Talk with your doctor – Ask for medications which are lower in cost, including generic medications when available. If you discover that a new prescription is beyond your budget, call your doctor immediately and ask if any different, less expensive medications, could work instead. Ask the pharmacist too! Be honest about your limitations. There’s no shame in saying that it’s too expensive. We don’t want you to choose between buying food and medications.
  2. Shop Around – Even if you have one favorite pharmacy that you use, it’s still important to contact other pharmacies for their prices, particularly for the more expensive medications such as Elmiron. Pharmacies in the same town may have dramatically different prices. If you find a lower price somewhere else, ask your pharmacist if his store will match that price.
  3. Partial Prescriptions – What could be more frustrating than spending $100 on a medication that, after you try one or two pills, you realize that can’t take due to its side effects. To avoid losing money, ask your pharmacist if he’ll give you a partial prescription first.
  4. Look for Generics – Several stores, such as Walmart and Target, began offering some (but not all) generic medications for just $4. Amitryptiline, for example, may be available at this cost.

OTC Options

There is no shame in not being able to afford conventional treatments… and, thankfully, a wide variety of self-help strategies that cost virtually nothing can help IC symptoms improve dramatically. Diet modification and the elimination of foods high in acid, caffeine and alcohol can help patients with bladder wall sensitivity due to Hunner’s lesions, Genitourinary Syndrome of Menopause, Chemocystitis. More affordable OTC supplements (i.e. AZO Urinary Pain Relief Tablets,  Bladder Builder®, Bladder Rest®, CystoProtek®, CystoMend®, AloePath®) were included as Step One Treatment Options in the American Urological Association IC Treatment Guidelines.