September 12th, 2012

Finding Support When Facing Serious Illness

By Denise Sitarik, RN, Vice President, Johnson & Johnson Patient Assistance Foundation, Inc.

In her book Illness as Metaphor Susan Sontag wrote that “everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick…[and] sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place.”

It’s true that we all want to remain permanent citizens in the world of good health, but at some point we all face illness, whether our own or that of a loved one. As a registered nurse, I know first-hand the challenges patients experience when they are diagnosed with a chronic illness:  physical pain and discomfort, fatigue, fear, and anxiety.  I have seen the physical and emotional toll chronic illness takes on patients, caregivers and their families and the tremendous energy required to deal with the day-to-day difficulties of illness. There is also the challenge of navigating the complexity of the US healthcare system. The sudden dependence on family and friends and the worry that comes from the financial impact of illness can be overwhelming.

At the Johnson & Johnson Patient Assistance Foundation (JJPAF), we try to help with the burden of chronic illness by assisting patients who meet eligibility requirements to get medicines they need. The mission of JJPAF is to help underserved patients access free prescription products they need to manage their illness and improve health outcomes. The medicines we provide are donated by the operating companies of Johnson & Johnson. The generosity of these companies helped us to assist more than 156,000 patients with over one million units of medicine in 2011. Janssen Therapeutics, Division of Janssen Products, LP, donates its HIV medicines to the Foundation.

Easing the Burden of Access to Medicines for People with HIV 

People with a diagnosis of HIV are often in need of multiple medications to manage their condition.  To help patients access medicines through a streamlined process, JJPAF has started to provide a new common patient assistance program application for HIV medicines, as part of a unique, public-private partnership with six other pharmaceutical companies, numerous Federal agencies and public-health and advocacy groups. A copy of the common application form is available here.

This important milestone was achieved through a shared vision to help patients. Making the application simpler and streamlining the process for patients who are in need is very important to us. On September 12, 2012, companies and their affiliated foundations that provide free or reduced-cost HIV medicines through patient assistance programs began to use the new common form. This will save time and simplify the application process for thousands of patients in the U.S.

In addition to JJPAF and the six pharmaceutical companies and foundations, the other organizations that helped to develop the form include the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (part of HHS), State AIDS Directors and AIDS Drug Assistance Programs, and various community representatives and advocates. The effort was convened by the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors. It has been an honor and a privilege to partner with the many individuals who worked to make this vision a reality for patients and who share a personal commitment to making a difference in the lives of patients.

At JJPAF we are working to support patients who need access to medicines, to make their often unexpected journey to the world of illness a little less difficult.  Every time I open the mail and find a letter from a patient that describes the difference we have made in his or her life, it reminds me again that the work we do is truly helping to care for the world one person at a time.

Would you like to learn more about JJPAF? Visit  www.jjpaf.org.

One Response to “Finding Support When Facing Serious Illness”

  1. Michael Bzdak says

    Thanks for this great post- you remind us that each of the 156,000 individuals has a personal narrative of fear and hop.

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