Patients without health care coverage or with limited coverage often cannot afford their medications. The result is medication nonadherence—skipping or taking lower doses of prescribed medications or forgoing meds altogether. Nonadherence can lead to serious health complications, more visits to the emergency department, and hospitalizations, especially among patients with chronic medical conditions. Prescription assistance programs are one solution to this problem.
“Sixty percent of uninsured and 33% of underinsured people don’t fill their prescriptions due to cost,” said Dan Barnes, CEO of FamilyWize Community Service Partnership, one of several organizations that offer prescription assistance programs. “The implications of that are frightening for the overall health and welfare of our nation.”
Pharmacists can help their uninsured or underinsured patients afford the medications they need by referring them to prescription assistance programs. Some of these programs help patients obtain both trade name and generic medications at a discount. Others offer free medications to individuals who qualify. Eligibility and enrollment requirements vary from program to program, but most have the following patient requirements:
A number of resources are available to help health professionals, patients, and caregivers navigate these programs more easily and enroll patients if they’re eligible. Most have websites that offer quick access to eligibility guidelines, online enrollment or a printable application, searchable databases listing specific medications or products, and links to other health resources. Many also offer toll-free telephone support. A sampling of resources follows.
AARP prescription discount card. AARP’s program offers discounts on prescription medications not covered by a Medicare Part D plan. AARP members can use the free prescription discount card at more than 64,000 participating pharmacies nationwide. Pharmacists should first ask patients if they have any other prescription medication coverage before using their AARP card. A mobile app version is available for registered users.
NeedyMeds. This organization helps patients find programs that assist with medication and health care costs. The website offers databases of prescription assistance programs, disease-based assistance programs, free- and low-cost clinics, government programs, and other types of assistance programs.
Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA). PPA helps qualifying patients get the medications they need through the program that is right for them. Many patients can get their medications free or nearly free. PPA’s website offers a single point of access to more than 475 public and private programs, including nearly 200 offered by pharmaceutical companies. A program for children’s medications is available at http://kids.pparx.org/.
FamilyWize Community Service Partnership. FamilyWize distributes a prescription drug discount card that has no restrictions and can lower medication costs by up to 75%. FamilyWize refers uninsured and underinsured patients to more than 61,000 participating pharmacies nationwide that provide discounts and savings on medications.
RxAssist. This nationally recognized, Web-based medication assistance resource center offers information about prescription assistance programs, Medicare Part D, programs for low-cost medications, and many other issues related to pharmaceutical access. RxAssist does not operate any medication programs.
Other helpful resources include the National Consumers League’s “Ways to save on Rx Meds? Co-pay cards and other resources” and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’s healthfinder website.
Warn patients of possible scams related to prescription assistance programs. PPA recently identified several scams that illegally use its name to collect patients’ private information, sell fake insurance, or charge a fee to access PPA’s materials or website. PPA is a free online resource that does not allow any companies or individuals to use its name to sell services.
Tell patients to always be wary of anyone who claims to represent PPA or requests personal information, donations, or a fee for services. Encourage patients to report possible scams involving PPA at www.pparx.org/en/about_us/contact_us.