If you can’t afford the prescription drugs you need, you may be eligible for assistance programs offered by pharmaceutical companies, 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 with information about your financial situation. You can usually download an application from the company’s website and fill it out online. 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 you’re 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.
For more information on patient assistance programs, go to RxAssist.org, a nonprofit group that has a comprehensive directory of drug assistance programs. You can type in the name of the drug you are taking, and it will give you information on any drug assistance programs, as well as a link to applications.
Drug Company Rebates
By law, drugmakers whose drugs are covered under Medicaid must rebate a certain part of the Medicaid payment to state governments as well as federal programs that help people who may need payment assistance. If you don’t have a deductible, or your prescription has multiple refills, you may benefit from a drugmaker rebate.
Assistance Programs Run by States
Currently, about one-third of states have active pharmaceutical assistance programs, typically for people who are elderly, disabled, or in financial need. With the passage of the Medicare Part D drug benefit and, more recently, the closing of the Part D doughnut hole, many states have ended their drug assistance programs.
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 nonprofit group that has an extensive database of information about patient assistance programs, state assistance, drug discount programs, and free or low-cost medical care. You can search the database for free on its website. 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 copay 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 find assistance programs. It also offers help with the application process.
- RxOutreach: A mail-order pharmacy for people with little to no health insurance coverage
Drug Discount Cards
Some states, nonprofit groups, and retail pharmacies offer drug discount cards. A few are free. You can get others for a low monthly or annual fee. If you’re buying, be sure to go with a reputable organization, such as AARP or NeedyMeds.
Take caution. Unfortunately, some people sell fake discount cards to try to get credit card and Social Security numbers. Be aware that discount cards are not health insurance. Before you sign up for any discount card, make sure it comes with clear terms and conditions and at least a 30-day refund policy.
Get Help Sorting It All Out
If you take a lot of medications, it may be hard to research all your options and fill out paperwork for all the different programs. Several groups provide free information, and some will help you find the program that supplies the drug you need. You can also ask for help filling out paperwork and navigating the application process.