By MICHAEL WOODS
November 03, 2005
Even lucky ones with insurance coverage feel the pain from rising co-payments that may top $25 for each prescription.
And people with low incomes and no prescription drug insurance? Many think they can't afford to get prescriptions filled in the first place, or to get refills and keep taking medication for serious health problems.
That "think" is important because hundreds of prescription drug assistance programs have been available for years. They make drugs available without charge or at a discount.
Many patients and some doctors have not even known about these programs. Others have run smack into logistical barriers than kept them from benefiting.
Just navigating through the maze of assistance programs, for instance, has been an ordeal. Some programs provide help with a single drug. Doctors treating a patient with several medications have had to search to find each individual assistance program.
That barrier is falling, with the debut of the Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA). The program is trying to increase public awareness about the availability of financial help. In addition, PPA is making it much easier for doctors and low-income patients find free or reduced-price medicines.
PPA provides one-point access to information on 475 assistance programs. That place is the PPA web site (www.pparx.org) or a toll-free telephone number (1-888-4PPA-NOW). Both patients and doctors can use the service without charge.
Most of the assistance programs are for patients who lack prescription drug coverage and earn less than 200 per cent of the Federal poverty level (about $19,000 for an individual or $32,000 for a family of three). An estimated 30 million people in the United States are in that situation.
The partnership involves the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (the main drug industry group) and a variety of national, state and local medical groups. Participants include the American Academy of Family Physicians, for instance, the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, the Lupus Foundation of America, the NAACP, the National Alliance for Hispanic Health and the National Medical Association.
Drug companies, government agencies and private organizations sponsor the individual assistance programs. In addition to free medicines, the programs offer discounts on more than 1,200 brand name and generic drugs or non-brand name medicines.
Patients can save time for the doctor by checking the PPA's web site to see what help is available. The site makes that quite easy. The home page has a separate link for patients. A click leads to another page where patients list their medications.
The site then does the rest, searching for assistance programs that match the medications. In addition to supplying information needed to get involved in a program, the site allows patients to download applications online.
You can then follow the instructions on the application to apply.
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