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Prescription Drug Basics


Patient Assistance Programs
Patient assistance programs can help the uninsured get the medications they need.
Patient assistance programs can help the uninsured get the medications they need.
Keith Brofsky/Photodisc/Getty Images

Some of us with health insurance struggle to pay for our prescriptions, so imagine how hard it would be if you had a chronic condition and no insurance. Luckily, patient assistance programs -- funded by state governments, charitable organizations and even drug companies -- can come to the rescue.

Yes, pharmaceutical companies are one of the main providers of free or discounted medication to low-income patients without insurance. Most major drug companies offer Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs (PAPs), which provide discounted or free medication to those who qualify. Some drug companies may also provide qualifying customers with a discount drug card.

If you qualify for these programs, it usually means you earn too much to qualify for government-funded programs but don't make enough to afford your own health insurance. Or maybe you can't get health insurance based on your medical history and can't afford all of your medications. Each PAP has different criteria, which can be confusing for people on medications from different drug companies. So the drug industry launched the Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA) to help patients find the right assistance fast. The PPA provides information on more than 475 PAPs and can help patients contact Medicare or other government programs that could be of use. Several other agencies provide the same services -- Access to Benefits Coalition specializes in the aging population and Medicare information, and NeedyMeds offers information from drug companies, state and local companies and programs based on specific diseases.

For more information on prescription drug benefits, check out the links on the next page.