Help from big pharma
The major pharmaceutical companies have programs that help people of all ages with limited income get their medications at a discount or even free. To see what's out there, go to www.helpingpatients.org , a website run by the pharmaceutical industry organization PhRMA. Here are details on a few of the programs, some of which are aimed specifically at seniors.
Programs: Pfizer Pfriends offers 15 to 50 percent off for anyone--regardless of age or income--without drug insurance coverage. Connection to Care offers people without coverage who earn $19,000 or less per year ($31,000 for households) free medications through their doctor.
Top drugs: Lipitor, Celebrex, Viagra
Notes: Pfizer just dropped Living Share, its discount card program aimed at the low-income elderly, urging them to enroll in U Share, one of the Medicare-approved discount cards.
Website: http://www.pfiz erhelpfulanswers.com
Programs: Orange Card, for seniors without drug coverage earning less than $30,000 per year ($40,000 for couples), offers 20 to 40 percent off GSK medicines. Bridges to Access, for anyone earning $25,000 or less with no drug coverage, provides free noncancer drugs and helps people enroll in Medicaid or state reimbursement programs. Commitment to Access, for cancer patients earning less than $32,585 per year ($43,715 for couples), provides free outpatient cancer drugs.
Top drugs: Wellbutrin, Zantac, Lotronex, Tagamet
Notes: Also participates in the Together Rx card (details below). Glaxo says the Orange Card will be available at least until the full Medicare drug benefit debuts in 2006.
Website: http://www .orangecard.com, http:// bridgestoaccess.gsk.com, http://commitmentto access.gsk.com
Programs: Patient Assistance Program provides free Merck drugs to patients of any age with no drug coverage earning $18,000 or less ($24,000 for couples, $35,000 for a family of four).
Top drugs: Fosamax, Proscar, Vioxx
Notes: Separate cancer drug program. Merck doesn't have a senior card but participates in wraparound programs with the Medicare discount program.
Website: http:// www.merck.com/pap/pap/consumer/index.jsp
Programs: Lilly Answers, for Medicare recipients who earn less than $18,000 ($24,000 per household) per year and have no drug coverage. Drugs for chronic conditions at $12 per month each. Integrated into Medicare discount program. Lilly Cares offers free meds for patients who can't afford them (eligibility is on a case-by-case basis).
Top drugs: Prozac, Humulin, Evista
Notes: Has separate programs for sepsis and cancer drugs. Lilly Answers will continue until the full Medicare program begins in 2006. Website: http://www.lilly .com/products/ access/d irect^dul_ patient.html
Programs: Together Rx card offers 20 to 40 percent discounts on drugs from its participating companies to Medicare recipients who have no drug coverage and earn $28,000 or less per year ($38,000 for couples).
Top drugs: Coumadin, Estraderm, Femara
Notes: Participating companies are Abbott Laboratories, Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, Aventis, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Janssen, and Ortho-McNeil.
Website: www.together rx.com -Katherine Hobson
This story appears in the September 20, 2004 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.