Finding an Affordable Way to Pay for Prescription Drugs

May 17, 2009 08:00 AM
by Denis Cummings
The recession has made it more difficult to afford prescription drugs, but many programs provide free or discounted medication to average Americans.

Programs Provide Free or Discounted Prescriptions

Many Americans have long had trouble affording their prescription medication, but the number of those with difficulties is growing as people lose their jobs or their savings in the economic downturn.

The Los Angeles Times reported that, according to a February survey of 1,200 people by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 53 percent of respondents had “cut back on health care spending” due to the recession, with 21 percent not getting a prescription filled and 15 percent cutting back on doses of their prescription.

Fortunately, a growing number of Americans has access to programs designed to provide financial assistance for prescription drug users. Though the majority of these programs were created to help only the neediest, the recession has caused many to expand their scope.

“These programs have always been designed to be a safety net, but more and more people are falling into it,” Ken Johnson, spokesman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), told The Wall Street Journal in October.

The Partnership for Prescription Assistance, a nonprofit organization run by PhRMA, has a directory of nearly 500 public and private programs, 200 of which drug companies offer. is an independent nonprofit that provides information on a wide range of brand-name and generic prescription drugs, telling you what programs are available, where to find them and how to qualify.

Over the past year, in response to growing financial hardship during the recession, several drug companies have expanded their assistance programs or introduced new ones.

For example, Merck has expanded its patient assistance program, which provides free medication to the uninsured and others with financial hardship, according to a press release. Merck raised the maximum income needed to qualify for the program from 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level to 400 percent, allowing a family of four with a household income below $88,200 to qualify.

On Thursday Pfizer announced that it would provide free prescription drugs for up to a year for newly unemployed patients who have been using a Pfizer prescription drug for at least three months.

Patients can also seek help from their doctors. Speaking to KIDK-TV (Idaho Falls), Health West executive director Stephen Weeg said that doctors can help patients find affordable alternatives, such as generic drugs.

Reference: Prescription drug resources


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