Low-income patients may be able to get their medications for free by providing documentation to charitable programs run by pharmaceutical companies. In the US, the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association publishes a directory of medication assistance programs. Doctors can get a copy of the PMA’s official guide by calling (800) PMA-INFO. Alternatively, you or your doctor can call the company that makes your medication directly to find out about its indigent patient program:
- 3M Pharmaceuticals (800) 328-0255
- Allergan Prescription (800) 347-4500
- Alza Pharmaceuticals (415) 962-4243
- Amgen (800) 272-9376
- Astra USA (800) 488-3247
- Berlex (800) 423-7539
- Boehringer Ingleheim (203) 798-4131
- Bristol Myers Squibb (800) 736-0003
- Burroughs-Wellcome (800) 722-9294
- Ciba-Geigy Patient Support Program (800) 257-3273 or (908) 277-5849
- Eli-Lilly (317) 276-2950
- Genetech (800) 879-4747
- Glaxo (800) 452-7677
- Hoechst-Roussel (800) 776-5463
- Hoffman-Larouche (800) 526-6367
- Ici-Stuart (302) 886-2231
- Immunex Corp. (800) 321-4669
- Janssen (800) 253-3682
- Johnson & Johnson (800) 447-3437
- Knoll (800) 526-0710
- Lederle (800) 526-7870
- Lilly Cares Program (800) 545-6962
- Marion Merrel Dow (800) 362-7466
- McNeil Pharmaceuticals (800) 682-6532
- Merck Human Health (800) 672-6372
- Miles (800) 998-9180
- Ortho Pharmaceuticals (800) 682-6532
- Parke-Davis (202) 540-2000
- Pfizer Indigent Patient Program (800) 646-4455
- Pharmacia (800) 795-9759
- Proctor & Gamble (800) 448-4878
- Rhone-Poulenc Rorer (610) 454-8298
- Roche Labs (800) 285-4484
- Roxane Labs (800) 274-8651
- Sandoz (800) 937-6673
- Sanofi Winthrop (800) 446-6267
- Schering Labs (800) 521-7157
- Searle (800) 542-2526
- Serono (617) 982-9000
- SmithKline Access to Care Program (800) 546-0420 (patient requests) or (215) 751-5722 (physician requests)
- Solvay Patient Assistance Program (800) 788-9277
- Survanta Lifeline (800) 922-3255
- Syntex Labs (800) 822-8255
- UpJohn Co.
- Wyeth-Ayerst (703) 706-5933
- Zeneca Pharmaceuticals (800) 424-372
An organization called the Medicine Program can help you and your doctor apply to indigent patient programs. Call them at (573) 778-1118, email at [email protected], or see their web site.
Most of these programs require that you have no insurance coverage for outpatient prescription drugs, that purchasing the medication at its retail price would be a hardship for you due to your income and/or expenses, and that you do not qualify for a government or third-party program that can pay for the prescription.
Another source for free medications is your physician’s sample cabinet. All you have to do is ask, and hope that the pharmaceutical rep has paid a recent visit. Samples can help tide you over rough financial patches, but you can’t rely on getting them monthly.
Mail-order and Internet Medications
In some cases, you can reduce the cost of your monthly medication bill by using a mail-order or online pharmacy. These pharmacies can fill your prescription and mail it to you, sometimes at a substantial savings. Medications may be available by mail-order within your country or from overseas. The latter option can be surprisingly inexpensive, and may provide you with access to medications that normally would not be available where you live.
Your doctor may have to fill out some paperwork before you can use these mail-order services. As with any other transaction by mail or over the Internet, you’ll want to do as much as you can to check out the company’s reputation and quality of service before sending money or using your credit card.
Communicating via fax, email, or telephone generally works best with these firms, which can usually send you a three-month supply in each order. If you are doing business with an overseas pharmacy, check customs regulations that might prohibit you from importing medication before ordering, especially if the drug is not approved for use in your country.
Some mail-order and online pharmacies were initially created to serve the market for AIDS medications, but have since expanded to cover a wide selection. Many will accept health insurance if you have a drug benefit–some will actually cover your medication co-payment as part of the deal.
If you are stationed overseas with the US military, contact your Tricare health benefits representative about mail-order arrangements.