Rx Help Online: Free and Discount Drugs

An estimated 48 million Americans are uninsured and more are struggling to pay for prescription drugs, but there are a number of programs that offer help when medication costs get out of control.

Depending on your income and treatment, programs run by health organizations and drug companies alike help provide access to inexpensive generic drugs, coupons, discounts and even free medication.

Resources range from umbrella assistance programs, where you can search for help based on the medications you take and specific eligibility criteria, to programs based on your condition.  There are also resources and retail outlets that provide discounts on brand-name and generic drugs.  Here’s a resource guide:

A Comprehensive Review
Comprehensive assistance programs help the uninsured and underinsured search for programs they qualify for.

Needy Meds offers access to more than 4,100 medicines and links to discount drug card and coupon programs, thousands of free or low-cost clinics around the country and programs offering medical equipment and supplies for specific diseases. There’s also a tool to see if you're eligible.

Partnership for Prescription Assistance is an entry point for more than 475 programs sponsored by pharmaceutical companies, government programs, health plans and charities.

The Patient Advocate Foundation has specialized case managers who can help with a multitude of financial health care issues and offers the most comprehensive patient assistance program for free or discount prescriptions. It also provides help paying for surgery, large copayments for medical care, child care while patients are undergoing treatments and even the cost of transportation to treatments.

PatientAssistance.com
provides links to more than 1,000 prescription-assistance programs, free clinics and programs that help with copayments for treatment for cancer and rare and chronic diseases.

Rx Assist lists links to state-run assistance plans and programs to help with drug copayments and patient education.

Rx Hope offers online assistance applications, links to medical groups, patient advocates and drug company web sites.

State assistance programs can be found at www.ncsl.org/programs/health/drugaid.htm.


Drugs by Disease
There are also resources offering free or lower-cost medication for specific diseases.

For assistance in paying for heart medications, visit www.heartsupportofamerica.org

For HIV and AIDS drugs, visit www.atdn.org.

For kidney diseases, www.kidneyfund.org.

For lung medications, www.caringvoice.org.

For rare diseases, visit www.rarediseases.org/programs/medication.

Drug Discounts
If you don’t qualify for free medication, you may qualify for the Together Rx Access card. These free cards can get you prescription discounts of 25% to 40% and are accepted at most pharmacies in every state and Puerto Rico. Its nearly 1.9 million members have saved more than $82 million with the Together Rx Access card since 2005.

Pharmaceutical companies including Pfizer (Stock Quote: PFE), Merck (Stock Quote: MRK) and GlaxoSmithKline (Stock Quote: GSK) offer discount cards good for their own medicines. AstraZeneca (Stock Quote: AZN) has one just for Medicare Part D recipients.

Needy Meds offers its own discount card as well as links to states that offer cards.

Going Generic
Many major discount and pharmacy chains offer dozens, if not hundreds, of the most widely used generic medicines for as little as $4 to $5 per month, or $10 to $15 for a three-month supply. Some supermarket pharmacies offer similar programs.

Those include: Wal-Mart (Stock Quote: WMT), Target (Stock Quote: TGT), Kmart (Stock Quote: SHLD), and Walgreens (Stock Quote: WAG). Drugs available are listed on their web sites.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask
You can also ask your doctor or health clinic whether they have free samples of any medicine they are prescribing for you.  And several regional supermarket chains began offering antibiotics for free this winter to draw customers into their aisles.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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