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Mark Lennihan/AP
The world headquarters of Pfizer Inc. in New York.

Pfizer to Provide Free Prescription Drugs to Newly Unemployed

May 15, 2009 03:30 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Pfizer will provide free prescription drugs to recently unemployed patients, continuing a trend of companies offering special plans to consumers who have lost their jobs in the recession.

Pfizer Announces Free Prescription Drug Plan

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 Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. announced Thursday that it will offer free medication for up to one year to Americans who have lost their jobs and their health care coverage since Jan. 1. The program, titled Medicines Assistance for Those who Are in Need (MAINTAIN™), makes more than 70 of its prescription drugs, including Lipitor and Viagra, available to those who have been using the drug for at least three months.

“With the launch of this initiative … we are doing what we can to ensure that recent loss of employment does not preclude people from managing their health,” Pfizer CEO Jeffrey B. Kindler said in a press release.

The Associated Press described the program as a “brilliant marketing move that will generate low-cost publicity, build consumer loyalty and keep inventory from piling up.” Pfizer will be able to deduct much of the cost of the donated medication, keeping the cost of the program to a minimum.

Pfizer follows many other companies in implementing programs to help customers hurt by the recession. Since January, companies in the automobile, clothing, travel and housing industries have begun offering discounts, free payments or financial protection for customers.

Merck & Co., Inc., a pharmaceutical rival of Pfizer, announced in March that it was expanding its patient assistance program to include patients with a household income at or below 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, up from 200 percent. “During these difficult economic times, Merck remains committed to helping people get the medicines they need,” Merck executive Kenneth C. Frazier said in a press release.

Background: Job-loss protection plans

Hyundai started the trend of offering assistance to recession-hit customers in January, when it began offering to make car payments for its buyers who were laid off. Other carmakers, such as General Motors and Ford, soon instituted similar plans, hoping that the assurance would boost their horrible sales figures, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

In April, the California Association of Realtors started a program for first-time home buyers who have been laid off. According to its press release, those who are eligible could receive $1,500 per month for six months to help pay their mortgage.

Home builders are also getting into the act. The Associated Press reported that Toll Brothers Inc., Pulte Homes Inc., Lennar Corp., M/I Homes and the Ryland Group Inc. are all offering some sort of protection plan for people who lose their jobs after closing on a new home.

For example, Toll Brothers has a plan that pays up to $2,500 a month for six months if a person loses a job within two years of closing on a new home. People are only eligible if they use “the company’s mortgage lender,” according to AP.

Beyond the housing industry, the travel industry also offers protections with travel insurance, though job loss has been part of many policies all along.

“In many cases, if you or your traveling companion loses a job, travel insurance will compensate you for nonrefundable outlays such as prepaid tours, cruises or airline tickets,” The Seattle Times reported.

JetBlue Airways now allows cash refunds for passengers who lose their jobs, and Norwegian Cruise Lines offers an insurance plan that provides a cash refund for cancellation fees for travelers who have been laid off, according to The Times.

Men’s clothing store JoS. A. Bank offered a promotion for customers who bought a suit between March 16 and April 9. If the buyer loses his job between April 16 and July 1, JoS. A. Bank “will refund the price he paid for the suit, up to a maximum of $199, and he may keep the suit,” according to a company press release.

In the prepaid cell phone world, Virgin Mobile unveiled a plan called “Pink Slip Protection” that allows customers to “waive up to three months of charges if you lose your job,” USA Today blog Technology Live reported.

Reference: Living through the recession

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