How is TheSocialMedwork able to legally import medicines for patients from overseas?
Most countries have legislation set out in their national Medicines Act enabling patients to import a medicine from overseas that has not yet been approved in their country, provided that they have a doctor’s prescription and some additional requirements that differ from country to country.
Unfortunately the exportation and importation of just one medicine from one country to another can be quite a complex process. It can also be difficult for patients and doctors to find a wholesaler who will deliver a medicine for just one patient. TheSocialMedwork was founded to meet this need!
Why does my doctor need to be supportive of the medicine I’m trying to access?
A doctor’s prescription is required in order for the medicine to be legally imported into your country. It’s important that medicines are prescribed and administered by a trained doctor and that the treatment is administered under professional conditions is provided by the treating doctor. We highly value the doctor-patient relationship; our role is to support access to a medicine when sought by both patient and doctor.
What information should the prescription contain?
The prescription should include:
- The patient’s name
- The patient’s date of birth
- The name of the medicine and dosage
- The required quantity
- The doctor’s name and signature
The prescription should ideally be issued in English; alternatively, a translation (unofficial is sufficient) should be provided.
How does the shipping process work?
After sourcing the medicine specifically for the named patient (with all the necessary paperwork and logistics), we provide all the documentation needed for the medicine to be exported and arrive in the designated country. The medicine is then ready to be imported from customs to its destination. Countries have different rules and regulations when it comes to a medicine being imported into a country. When it comes to the actual act of importation, we’ll do everything from our end to process the import. In some cases and depending on the country, we’ll need support from you and/or your local pharmacy. We’ll provide you with all our knowledge, connections and experience about the import process in your particular country. If applicable to your situation, we may recommend you or your pharmacy to also get in touch with your country’s customs branch at the same time, so that we can work to get your medicine to you as quickly as possible.
How do I pay for the medicine?
After you place an order with us, we’ll send you an order confirmation, as well as an invoice with the payment details. Payment can be made by electronic bank transfer. Please make sure that you transfer the amount stated on the invoice in Euros (€).
Can you help me to import a medicine if it’s already been approved in my country?
Once a medicine has been approved and it’s available in your country, there’s no longer a need for us to help you to gain access to it anymore. It’s best to explore getting the medicine directly through your doctor and hospital. If for some reason your physician can’t (yet) lay hands on the newly approved medicine, then let us know – (s)he and the hospital may still be able to make use of our service.
I’m looking for a medicine that hasn't yet been approved in my country, but I can’t find it listed on your product page. Can you still help me access it?
We’ll do our very best – send us your question! We may not have had a chance to upload the information yet. If your doctor has recommended a specific medicine and it’s been approved somewhere in the world, it’s very possible that we’ll be able to deliver it to you.
Can I access the medicine I want some other way? If so, why should I access it via TheSocialMedwork?
Sometimes patients are able to access the medicine they’re seeking through a clinical trial. Should that be the case, then there’s no need for our service. Patients can check for clinical trials at ClinicalTrial.gov or Antidote.me. An advantage of accessing a clinical trial is that the medicine is free of charge – pharmaceutical companies are not allowed to charge participants. A disadvantage is that many trials are still ‘placebo-controlled’. This usually means that the participant has a 50% chance of receiving the placebo (instead of the treatment), but do check the specific conditions of the clinical trial you’re considering yourself.
Another option is to get access to a compassionate use program or an early access program for the new medicine, should such a program be running in the patient’s country. Patients can check for such programs at websites like MyTomorrows.
Unfortunately, the requirements for taking part in a clinical trial or compassionate use program are often very strict. Statistics show that approximately 95 % of patients are excluded from such programs.
TheSocialMedwork exists to support the 95 % of patients who aren’t able to access the new medicine they need via a special program.
How is the cost of each medicine determined?
The cost of each medicine is set by the pharmaceutical company. Sometimes certain medicines are only distributed to certain wholesalers from whom the medicine can then be sourced. We add a 5–15 % margin to the best price we can get from our wholesalers (which is already included in the price you see listed on the product page) – as well as a support handling fee of € 295 per order. This fee covers the cost of our services and enables us to continue functioning as a social enterprise. Any revenue we make will be re-invested into growing our service. We strive to cut out as many middle men as possible and always strive to achieve the best price for patients.
Can I claim the cost of the medicine via my country’s healthcare system?
Some countries have a government fund providing financial assistance for citizens to access lifesaving medical treatment overseas, if a similar treatment isn’t available at home. In some instances (e.g. in the UK and Australia), patients have been able to access their pension or superannuation fund for treatment. The best thing would be to check with your country’s health department, or your personal pension or superannuation fund.
We also highly recommend checking out local patient-blogs, communities and patient organisations to find out more about your options.
How can I ask my health insurance company if they’ll cover the treatment?
In some countries and even in individual cases, health insurance companies may partially or fully cover the cost of the medicine. If you need to, we recommend to checking with your insurance before ordering. Each health insurance company will have their individual procedures for submitting a request. However, as a starting point, we recommend writing a letter to them outlining the fact that:
- there are no other viable treatment options available
- the required treatment has already been approved in (name of country)
- your treating physician has assessed this treatment as being the best option for you in your situation.
It might also be a good idea to attach a copy of the prescription and a supporting letter from your physician, if possible.
I understand that the price of each medicine listed is set by the pharmaceutical company, but what about patients who can’t afford it?
Great question! Helping patients overcome the financial hurdle of accessing much needed medicines is a far bigger task than what TheSocialMedwork could accomplish alone, so we founded TheSocialMedwork Foundation. This foundation will focus on providing financial assistance to the most vulnerable patients worldwide, subsidising the cost of their treatment (subject to being assessed and reviewed by a Medical Ethical Advisory Board). It will also respond rapidly to health crisis situations with the supply of medicines. TheSocialMedwork Foundation expects to have it’s Medical Ethical Advisory Board by October 2017 and hopes to receive its first round of funding to be able to accept patient and community requests for financial support in early 2019.
In the meantime we encourage patients to get in touch with patient and charity organisations in their own country to explore financial support options, and to share such resources with fellow patients via our online community. We also know of patients, family and friends who were able to crowd fund their much needed treatment and have compiled some of their advice here.
If you know of specific ways that patients may be able to receive financial assistance for their much needed treatment we would love to hear from you so that we can share this information with our patient community! Send us an email to email@example.com.
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