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    Health Care Reform:

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    Drugmakers Are Expanding Programs That Provide Free Drugs for the Unemployed

    Recession Means Free Rx Drugs for Some

    Do You Qualify for Free Drugs? continued...

    PhRMA runs what Johnson calls a one-stop-shopping clearinghouse of the program that is designed to help patients apply for assistance (888-4PPA-NOW).

    Over its four years of existence, PhRMA's Partnership for Prescription Assistance has helped nearly 6 million people get their prescription drugs either free or at a reduced cost, he says.

    "Someone taking six or seven medicines might otherwise have to contact 35 or 40 programs to find out what is available," he says. "We ask 10 easy questions -- the most important being what medicines do you take -- and within 10 minutes we can give you a pretty good idea what you qualify for."

    Under Pfizer's Maintain program anyone who has lost a job since the beginning of the year may qualify for free drugs if they:

    • Have been taking a Pfizer drug for at least three months prior to becoming unemployed and enrolling in the program.
    • Have no prescription drug coverage.
    • Can prove financial hardship.

    Those who quality will receive drugs free for up to a year, or until they become reinsured. The program is open for enrollment through the end of the year.

    Efforts by other drugmakers include:

    • Merck has expanded its 50-year-old patient-assistance program to include an estimated 350,000 more Americans, spokeswoman Amy Rose tells WebMD. The company recently doubled the maximum income allowable to qualify for assistance, meaning that a family of four with an annual household income of up to $88,200 can now qualify for free medications. The previous maximum income was $44,100.
    • Abbott Pharmaceuticals will help the majority of the 180,000 people taking the biologic medication Humira pay for the drug, which can cost thousands of dollars a year. Under the Humira Protection Plan, uninsured or low-income patients can get the drug for free and insured patients who qualify can get the drug for an out-of-pocket cost of around $60 a year, Abbott spokeswoman Elizabeth Hoff tells WebMD.
    • AzstraZeneca provides free or low cost drugs through its AZ&Me program. Under the program, an uninsured family of four with an annual income of $60,000 or less may qualify for free drugs, while Part D beneficiaries who make $30,000 a year or less or $40,000 or less per couple may qualify for reduced-cost drugs.

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