Rising medication costs create an additional headache for already over-stretched caregivers, especially for those providing care for an under-insured or low-income relative or loved one. Prescription assistance programs (also called patient assistance programs) are valuable resources for those who meet income requirements and who do not have prescription insurance. Every major pharmaceutical company has established a prescription assistance program that provides free or low-cost medication to qualifying applicants. At last count, there were over 1,400 medications available through the prescription assistance programs.
While prescription assistance programs have the potential to help those who cannot afford their medications, the various application requirements and procedures can make the programs difficult for many patients, providers and caregivers to access. Several organizations have developed websites with comprehensive databases that allow patients or their caregivers to review the eligibility and application requirements for the various programs.
The following are a few organizations that help patients apply for prescription assistance programs. There isn't a perfect solution for everyone; each organization presents the information differently and will provide varying levels of assistance with the application process. As with most things in life, knowing what resources are available will help you make informed decisions and provide the best care for your loved one.
NeedyMeds (http://www.needymeds.org/): Started by a medical doctor and a social worker over a decade ago, NeedyMeds began as a resource for information about patient assistance programs. Since that time, the organization has grown to become a clearinghouse of information about affordable medications from various sources including disease-based assistance and government programs as well as free and low-cost clinics. Through its website, patients and their advocates can search for information by either drug name or manufacturing company and will be provided details about eligibility and application requirements. If it is possible to apply online for the applicable program, either the form or a link to the appropriate website will be included on the details page.
Partnership for Prescription Assistance (http://www.pparx.org/): Possibly the most recognizable organization due to its celebrity spokespeople and "Help is Here" buses, its website includes information about prescription assistance programs, Medicare, Medicaid and free or low-cost clinics. It describes itself as a "single point of access to more than 475 public and private programs, including nearly 200 offered by pharmaceutical companies." After completing an online enrollment form, the site will list the public and private programs for which the patient is eligible and provide the appropriate forms or information to contact the programs.
RxAssist (http://www.rxassist.org/): RxAssist has a comprehensive database that helps patients and their advocates find information about affordable medications by drug or company name. The site provides a list of the company contact information, eligibility and application requirements. If the necessary paperwork is available online, a link will be provided in the program details. The website also includes a list of chain drugstores with generic drug discount programs as well as samples of form letters the pharmaceutical companies may require during the application process.
Simplefill (http://www.simplefill.com/): For patients or advocates looking for additional assistance navigating the prescription assistance programs, Simplefill may provide the solution. The company conducts an interview over the phone to determine if a patient meets the eligibility requirements of the appropriate prescription assistance program. If a patient is qualified, they are assigned a personal advocate who completes the entire application process, gathers required signatures, monitors refills and applies for additional medications when necessary. The company charges a flat monthly service fee of $65.00 to obtain all of the patient's medications from various pharmaceutical companies. After the monthly fee is paid, patients receive all of their medication for free. If the patient is prescribed additional medication after joining the program, the company will obtain it at no additional fee.
Community Volunteer Groups: Some communities have volunteer organizations that help patients or their advocates work through the application process for the various prescription assistance programs. There is a link on the NeedyMeds website called "Application Assistance" that provides a state-by-state listing of volunteer groups. Additional information about volunteer groups in your area can be found on the website for the Administration on Aging (http://www.aoa.gov/).