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Mayo Clinic Health System helps cancer patients with drug repository program

Published: Nov. 15, 2021 at 8:10 PM CST
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Medications get expensive, especially for cancer patients who often need a lot of meds.

Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire is trying to make it easier for cancer patients with its drug repository program.

The initiative, which is began in 2020, is part of larger program in Wisconsin. Mayo Clinic’s, however, currently only applies to cancer meds. Other hospitals in the program do offer the program for more medications.

“We are allowing patients to donate unused oral chemotherapy medications back to aid others who have difficulty gaining access to therapy because of insurance or other logistics as well,” Mayo Clinic Healthy System Eau Claire pharmacist Kaitlyn Bailey said.

Bailey started the program at Mayo after seeing something similar succeed while working in South Dakota.

She said she hopes to expand it beyond cancer meds.

Donated pills must be in their original, unopened container.

Mayo Clinic Health System Eau Claire oncologist Dr. Eyad Al-Hattab said the program’s already helped several of his cancer patients begin new treatment regiments quickly.

“These pills are extremely, they are dispensed by specialty pharmacies and there’s a lot of logistics to get the prescription to the patients,” he said.

He said patients can wait two or three weeks to get meds from specialty pharmacies after he writes a prescription. With the drug repository program, if the hospital has donated medicine in house, a patient can start the new drug within days, giving them time to work out the logistics before getting a refill from the specialty pharmacy.

Mayo provides donated cancer meds free to patients.

“For a cancer patient to have the prescription ready and to go and start the treatment within a couple days, even mentally and psychologically it’s definitely helpful,” Al-Hattab said.

“This program has been a great way to help patients gain access to their medications in an extremely timely fashion and it keeps the medication off the street and out of patients home and in a much safer location where it can contribute to the care of others,” Bailey said.

“It just makes sense, right,” Al-Hattab said. “There’s no waste of medications that are needed by other patients. It doesn’t get wasted. It’s returned and it can be repurposed to other patients. It just makes sense.”

Bailey said Mayo Clinic Health System does work with other hospitals participating in the statewide program to share meds.

She added Mayo plans on expanding the program to its La Crosse facility.

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