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Companies, groups help with drug costs

Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Wal-Mart and the Patient Advocate Foundation have programs that offer prescriptions free or at a reduced price.

June 08, 2009|Francesca Lunzer Kritz

"Out of work" might not have to mean "out of medication."

Pfizer has launched a program specifically for the newly unemployed and, as a result, the newly uninsured.

Beginning July 1, the maker of medications such as the pain reliever Celebrex and the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra will launch an assistance program for people who have lost, or will lose, their jobs and job-related health insurance in 2009 and who were already taking an eligible Pfizer drug at least three months before becoming unemployed and enrolling in the program. Participation is limited to people who have no other prescription drug coverage and who need financial help with their prescription medications.

People who qualify will receive their Pfizer medicines free for up to 12 months or until they become re-insured -- whichever comes first, says Pfizer spokesman Christopher Loder. More than 70 Pfizer primary-care medicines will be available through the program, including blood pressure medicine Caduet and the cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor. To enroll, call (866) 706-2400 or go to www.pfizerhelpfulanswers.com, the portal for all of Pfizer's assistance programs.

"If someone does not qualify, operators see if they are eligible for a different Pfizer assistance program," Loder says.

Other programs that could lighten the demands on your wallet:

* Wal-Mart, which lets consumers buy 30-day supplies of hundreds of generic drugs for $4, just introduced a mail-order program in Michigan that offers 90-day supplies of about 300 generic drugs for $10. Participation in the program is free, as is shipping. The company piloted its $4 program in 2006 in Florida, and then expanded it nationwide two months later. It could do the same with the new program, though the company would not comment on its plans.

* The Patient Advocate Foundation, a national, nonprofit patient services organization, offers a 12-month drug co-pay assistance program for people who have health insurance that covers at least a portion of a drug bill. The program is disease-specific, not drug-specific. More than a dozen conditions are covered, including several forms of cancer, chronic pain, Crohn's disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Late last year the company added assistance for people who need help paying for osteoporosis drugs. For more information, call (866) 512-3861 or go to www.copays.org.

* And, according to a market research survey published in mid-May, drug companies plan to increase their own co-pay programs for insured people this year, so check to see if your drugs' manufacturers offer discounts. GlaxoSmithKline, for example, offers one free prescription and $25 off the next three prescription co-pays for diabetes drug Avandia. That may reduce the patient share for some people to nothing. Check for offers at www.internetdrugcoupons.com.

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health@latimes.com

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