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    If you can’t afford the prescription drugs you need, you may be eligible for assistance programs offered by drugmakers, nonprofit groups, or state governments.

    Here's how they work.

    Patient Assistance Programs Run by Drug Companies

    To get the process started, you need to mail an application to the drug company along with information about your financial situation. You can usually download an application from the company’s web site. In most cases, your doctor will need to provide information about your prescriptions.

    The drug company will review the application and tell you if you’re eligible for assistance. If approved, many companies will ship a supply of the drug to your home or your doctor’s office. You or your doctor will need to place a new order several weeks before the supply runs out.

    Assistance Programs Run by States

    Many states offer medication assistance programs. These vary by state and tend to be geared toward the elderly, disabled, or those in financial need. Some programs are for those with specific conditions like HIV/AIDS or end-stage kidney disease. Programs may also coordinate with Medicare benefit plans. You may see these called state pharmaceutical assistance programs (SPAP).

    Assistance Programs Run by Nonprofit Groups

    • Partnership for Prescription Assistance: A program sponsored by drug companies, doctors, patient advocacy organizations, and civic groups. It helps low-income, uninsured patients get free or low-cost, brand-name medications.
    • NeedyMeds: A non-profit organization that maintains an extensive database of information about patient assistance programs, state assistance, drug discount programs, and free or low-cost medical care. You can search their database for free on their web site. The site also has information on thousands of programs to help consumers through the application process.
    • RxAssist: An online database of drug company programs that provide free or affordable drugs and co-pay assistance.
    • Center for Benefits: Provided by the National Council on Aging, this shares information about assistance programs for low-income seniors and young people with disabilities.
    • RxHope: A web-based resource where you can search by medication to locate assistance programs. They also offer help with the application process.
    • RxOutreach: A mail-order pharmacy for people with little to no health insurance coverage.