The price of prescription drugs can lead poorer patients to sometimes ugly choices. Six months ago, St. Vincent de Paul of North Texas, based in Dallas, soft-launched a pharmacy where you don’t have to worry about making life-altering choices – spend money on food or utilities, or spend money on medicine. On Tuesday, the pharmacy officially opened its doors.
Hank Hermann, executive director of the pharmacy, says the project started because "People with chronic health conditions who do not have access to medications because they can’t afford them are in a really bad place. And we think that everyone should have the dignity of access to health-sustaining medications."
So, St. Vincent doesn’t charge visitors anything -- as long as they meet a small set of criteria. You cannot have health insurance coverage. Your household income cannot be more than double the federal poverty line. You need a valid prescription. And, at least for now, you need to live in one of nine counties surrounding Dallas.
For Northeast Texans, that’s good news – residents of Hunt, Grayson, Kaufman, Collin, Rockwall, and Fannin counties are eligible. But, Hermann says, greater reach could be coming.
He says the main goal is to ensure that prescription medications to be conveniently available to people who need them, regardless of where in the area they live. St. Vincent already has partnerships with some clinics in the region. Some, like Hope Clinic of McKinney, in Collin County, help deliver medicines for those who can’t make the hour round trip to Dallas. Hermann says the pharmacy is looking to expand its network of partner clinics.
And if you’re wondering how a pharmacy can afford to give out free medicines, St. Vincent has a few major benefactors – the drug companies.
"Our pharmacy would not be possible without the generosity of the pharmaceutical companies," Hermann says. "They get a bad rap but I can tell you sincerely that they really don’t want people in need of medications not to have access to them."
To date, he says, pharma companies have given St. Vincent more than $600,000 in medicine to dispense.