Nov 122011

Excellence in Health Care: Providing medicines to those who might go without

Premium content from Charlotte Business Journal by Bea Quirk , Contributing writer
Date: Friday, September 30, 2011, 6:00am EDT – Last Modified: Thursday, September 29, 2011, 4:18pm EDT

Since 1997, N.C. MedAssist has been serving low-income residents of Mecklenburg County with free pharmacy services. Then, 18 months ago, thanks to a grant from the N.C. attorney general, it expanded its services to cover 85 of the state’s 100 counties. About 55% of those receiving medications live in Mecklenburg.

In the last fiscal year, it dispensed $14 million in free medication statewide.

In recognition of that growth and service, MedAssist is the recipient of a community partner/advocate award.

The organization is a good steward of the funding it receives. For every $1 donated, medicine valued at $8 is distributed. Brand-name medications are donated by pharmaceutical companies, while the agency purchases generic drugs.

Participation in the program is needs-based. Although antibiotics are available for acute care, most medicines are distributed to treat chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

Prescriptions can be distributed through a patient’s doctor. In Mecklenburg, MedAssist operates a pharmacy near uptown where patients pick up medicines. A system to mail prescriptions to patients is in the works.

“We provide an invaluable service to patients and other health-care providers by making sure patients receive the medications they need and avoid future ER and urgent-care visits,” says Kelly Musante, MedAssist development director.

The state grant for expanding MedAssist’s services across the state expires at the end of the year. A fundraising campaign is under way to replace those funds for the effort, which costs about $1 million a year.

Bea Quirk is a Charlotte-based free-lance writer who can be reached at

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