Anyone who regularly takes prescription medication knows how pricey these drugs can be.
Fortunately, there are places where you can buy your drugs for less or even get them for free. The key is knowing where to look.
Important: Although most low-cost drug programs have income eligibility requirements, do not assume that you won't be accepted into a program just because your income is officially too high. Many programs will consider applications on a case-by-case basis.
Best resources for finding low-cost or free medications…
Drug Discount Networks
There are some organizations that connect patients to public and private assistance programs that provide discounted or free drugs to eligible patients. These include…
- Partnership for Prescription Assistance (888-477-2669, www.pparx.org). This collaborative network of professional medical organizations, including the American Academy of Family Physicians, and private groups links patients with more than 475 public and private patient assistance programs that offer more than 2,500 drugs at reduced cost or no charge. Income qualifications vary by state.
- Together Rx Access (800-444-4106, www. togetherrxaccess.com). Backed by a consortium of pharmaceutical companies, this program provides a 15% to 40% discount on more than 300 brand-name and generic prescription drugs. The program targets people who don't have prescription drug coverage with annual incomes of $45,000 or less for individuals... $60,000 for a family of two.. and up to $105,000 for a family of five.
Pharmaceutical Patient-Assistance Programs
Major pharmaceutical companies have their own patient-assistance programs that offer many—though not all—drugs at a discount, or even for free, to people who cannot afford them. Eligibility requirements vary-even families earning up to $70,000 a year can qualify. Some companies evaluate applications on a case-by-case basis.
To obtain a free copy of Directory of Prescription Drug Patient Assistance Programs, call the Partnership for Prescription Assistance at 800762-4636. To determine the manufacturer of a particular drug, ask your pharmacist or go to www.PDRbealth.com/drugs/drugs-index.aspx.
Among the pharmaceutical companies with programs…
- Abbott Patient Assistance Program (800222-6885, www.abboft.com). Click on "Global Citizenship."
- AstraZeneca's AZ&Me Prescription Savings Program (800-292-6363, www.astrazen eca-us.com).
- GlaxoSmithKline (888-825-5249, www.gsk foryou.com).
- Lilly Cares Patient Assistance Program (Eli Lilly: 800-545-6962, www.lillycares.com).
- Merck Patient Assistance Program (800727-5400, www.merck.com/merckbelps/patient assistance/bome.html).
- Novartis Patient Assistance Foundation (800-277-2254, www.pharma.us.novartis.com).
- Pfizer Helpful Answers (866-776-3700, www.pfizerbelpfulanswers.com).
- Roche Patient Assistance Foundation (877-757-6243, www.rocheusa.com/programs/pa tientassist.asp.
- Schering-Plough Cares (800-656-9485), and for cancer and hepatitis drugs, Commitment to Care (800-521-7157). Both at www.scheringplough.com. Click on "Consumer Health Care," then "Patient Assistance and Support Programs."
- Wyeth Pharmaceutical Patient Assistance Program (800-568-9938, www.wreth.com)
Some pharmaceutical companies also offer coupons that can be printed from their Web sites, as well as discount card programs offering savings on some products. Check the drug manufacturer's Web site for details.
To learn about more programs that can help reduce your drug bills, see the article below.
The Best Discount Health Programs Aren't Always Publicized
There are a number of ways to dramatically reduce your medication costs. Unfortunately, most drug-discount programs don't advertise their services, so few people are aware of all the available options. Some programs even waive income eligibility requirements.
Among the best resources…
Pharmacy Benefit Managers
Because of their size, large companies that act as third-party managers of prescription drug programs can provide discounted medications. Ones to consider…
- Caremark. RxSavings Plus (877-673-3688, www.rxsavingsplus.com). This program offers a card that is accepted at more than 59,000 US pharmacies and provides an average savings of 20%. You can use the card as long as you're not receiving insurance reimbursement, including Medicare. For up to a 50% discount, order a 90day supply by mail.
- Express-Scripts. Outreach Rx (800-7693880, www.rxoutreach.com). Designed for lowincome patients, this program sets annual income limits of less than $32,490 for most individuals or less than $43,710 a year for couples. A 90-day supply of most medications costs $20, $30 or $40, depending on the drug.
Federal, state and local governments also offer eligible patients access to low-cost drugs…
- US Department of Veterans Affairs (877-222-8387, www.va gou). For people who were honorably discharged from active duty in a branch of the military, the VA will provide prescription drugs at a cost of $8 a month. The prescription must be written by a doctor in a VA clinic. To qualify, you must fill out application form 10-10EZ (available at local VA offices and medical centers or online at www.va.gov/heal theligibility application and provide a copy of your discharge document.
- The VA also offers a separate healthcare program, called CHAMPVA, for family members of a veteran who has a permanent disability or who died in the line of duty or due to a service-connected disability-as long as they're not eligible for TRICARE (see below).
- TRICARE (www.tricare mil). TRICARE is a healthcare benefit for active-duty service members, reserve members, retired uniformed armed services members, their families and survivors. Widows and widowers of active-duty members also may qualify unless they remarry. The plan includes prescription coverage.
If the medication is obtained at a military treatment facility, it is free, Medications obtained at retail network pharmacies or by mail cost $3 to $22 for a 90-day supply.
National Conference of State Legislatures (202624-5400, www.ncsi.org/programs health drugaid. htm#discount). By December 2008, 42 states had established some type of program to provide prescription drug coverage or subsidies to low-income older adults or disabled persons who do not qualify for Medicaid. The programs vary widely—and the information is available through state departments of health or social services.
Patient Advocacy Groups
Some groups charge a set fee to help patients find free or low-cost medications. This works well for people who don't want to deal with the application process required for most of the drug-assistance programs.
The Free Medicine Foundation (573-996-3333. www.freemedicine.com). This group will search for programs that can provide your drugs for little or no charge. The onetime fee of $10 is reimbursed if the group fails to find your medication for free. The service is available to people with incomes up to $84,800 for a family of four...$56,000 for couples...and $41,600 for individuals.
Indigent Patient Services Inc. (727-521-2646, www.ipsc.cc). A onetime registration fee of $25 per person/$40 per couple is required for this program, and each prescription (usually three months' worth of medication) costs $20.
Some large retail stores, such as Wal-Mart, Target, Costco and Kmart, offer low-price prescriptions on generic and some brand-name medications. Wal-Mart, for instance, offers a program that covers mostly generic drugs at a cost of $4 for a 30-day supply and $10 for a 90day supply
For information, go to store Web sites or ask at your local store's pharmacy.