New repository program accepts oral cancer drug donations to help patients in need

COLUMBUS – Patients now are able to donate no-longer-needed oral cancer therapy drugs for the benefit of other cancer patients through new state rules spearheaded by the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy and The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute.

In recognition of the 20th anniversary of World Cancer Day, the organizations announced the formation of a new cancer drug repository program that will be housed at the OSUCCC – James Outpatient Pharmacy. The program will accept donations of unneeded medications from individual patients, pharmacies, hospitals and non-profit clinics to be re-dispensed to patients in treatment at the OSUCCC – James who cannot afford the cost of the medications.

New rules adopted in October 2019 by the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy allow patients to donate previously dispensed oral cancer medications that are no longer needed for the purpose of re-dispensing to patients who cannot afford their prescribed medications. Previous rules allowed only for the collection of unopened medication that was dispensed for the prescribed patient but never picked up.

“In cancer, it is quite common for patients to switch to a new medication or experience a medication dose reduction. As a result, we end up with a lot of wasted medication that must be disposed of,” said Julie Kennerly-Shah, PharmD, a pharmacist and associate director of pharmacy at the OSUCCC – James. “Together with the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy, the Ohio State pharmacy team was able to develop new governing rules that would allow patients to donate these unneeded medications for re-dispensing to patients in financial need through our existing hospital-based Medical Assistance Program.”

The OSUCCC – James is the first hospital in Ohio, and among the first in the United States, to launch a cancer drug repository program. The program will initially accept capecitabine and temozolomide.

“These oral therapies are used in a number of the more common cancers that impact patients we treat from within and beyond Ohio, including neuroendocrine, breast cancer, neuro-oncology and gastrointestinal cancers,” Kennerly-Shah said. “We are launching the oral drug repository with two medications to solidify and confirm best practices, with the intention of expanding in the near future to develop a repository that provides additional value to our patients in greatest financial need.”

The cancer drug repository initiative is a new component of the overall Medical Assistance Program at the OSUCCC – James. The MAP consult service was established to help patients who are unable to afford their medications due to financial hardship.

The program consists of pharmacists, medical assistance program coordinators, clinical financial case managers and other support personnel who work one-on-one with patients to reduce health care costs associated with cancer treatment.

Since the program’s inception in 2001, the team has helped more than 30,000 patients gain access to grant funding and manufacturer-assistance programs, with a patient savings of more than $500 million.

“Financial toxicity is a very real concern for families facing a cancer diagnosis. As an institution, we want to do all that we can to reduce additional stressors for patients so they can focus on getting well,” said Dr. David Cohn, chief medical officer for the cancer hospital and gynecologic oncologist. “The overall medical assistance program and the new cancer repository are steps towards our ultimate goal of addressing the high cost of cancer care by embracing opportunities to help patients with the greatest financial need.”

“We are proud of the collaboration with Ohio State to demonstrate the impact of these important rule changes,” said Shawn Wilt, president of the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy. “On behalf of the board, we encourage other licensees to utilize the new drug repository rules to promote improved access to affordable medications for individuals living with cancer.”

Patients interested in donating non-expired, no-longer-needed capecitabine or temozolomide should contact the OSUCCC – James Outpatient Pharmacy.

Donated medications must be within expiration dates, stored as prescribed and otherwise untampered with. Pharmacists then will go through an eight-point inspection of the drug to ensure that it is safe to re-dispense at a future date to patients in need.

“Ohio State has been a leader in medication-assistance programs and has taught many people across the country how to optimize various manufacturer programs and grant programming. We want to be an asset to other hospitals considering implementation of a cancer drug repository as well,” Kennerly-Shah said. “Our hope is that our repository is a first step toward a much bigger solution long-term that could be modeled beyond our individual hospital and state.”