Web Site Helps Consumers Find Free Medications

<b>Web Site Helps Consumers Find Free Medications</b> (NU) – Millions of Americans have turned to the Internet for cheaper prescription drug prices, but they may be surprised to learn that for millions of consumers, the best deals are available from pharmaceutical companies in the form of patient assistance programs.

In 2003, patient assistance programs helped uninsured or underinsured patients obtain nearly 18 million prescriptions. The estimated wholesale value of medicines distributed through patient assistance programs is almost $3.4 billion.

To continue to help doctors and low-income patients take advantage of free and significantly discounted medications, America’s pharmaceutical companies are launching a new Web-based tool on www.helpingpatients.org, a site that gives eligible patients and health care providers “one-stop shopping” for available patient assistance programs.

The new feature provides easier and faster access to 40 different patient assistance programs and more than 400 medications.

“In the past, you had to determine which programs you were eligible for and then fill out a separate application for each program,” said Alan F. Holmer, president of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. “Now, all you need to do is answer one short set of questions. Then the computer tells you which programs you are eligible for and creates separate applications based on your answers, clearing the confusion and cutting the time you or your health care provider would spend answering the same questions over and over again on different forms.”

After printing out the form, the site provides instructions for attaching certain documentation, completing the documents and obtaining the signature of the appropriate health care provider.

In accordance with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act regulations, none of the personally identifiable information is retained. To ensure that the information is highly secure, all of the forms are encrypted to require a password that only the patient and health care provider knows.

HelpingPatients.org also contains an online database of more than 185 patient assistance programs. The database was created and funded by the pharmaceutical industry.

Consumers can download a free copy of the patient assistance program directory at www.helpingpatients.org or at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America Web site, www.phrma.org.

PhRMA also publishes a printed version of the directory, which lists programs, the companies that offer them, available medicines, basic eligibility requirements and contact persons.

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