By going online to www.pparx.org or calling 1-888-4PPA-NOW, patients can now tap into a database that will parse their eligibility for the various drug-company plans offering free or discounted medicines, as well as another 125 private and public programs. The actual application process varies from program to program, but the Web site and call-center staff can help steer patients through the maze of details.
In cheering the pharmaceutical firms for sponsoring more than 150 programs providing free or discounted prescription medicines, it should be noted that major U.S. drugmakers are in no danger of draining their hefty profits with giveaways to patients who cannot afford their medicines.
For every prescription that drugmakers donate or knock down in price, they sell at least another 99 medications to the millions of insured and wealthier patients.
In making Tuesday's announcement, the drug firms conceded that millions of patients who might qualify for help have never been linked to their patient-assistance programs.
As an official at the HealthCare Institute of New Jersey, a local affiliate of the national Pharmaceutical Research Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) trade group, explained, "People like the programs, but they find them confusing. They're hard to navigate."
PhRMA's new "Partnership for Prescription Assistance" ramps up to a national scale similar efforts already launched in several states - with New Jersey's Rx4NJ program the most recent. That program - accessible at www.Rx4NJ.org and 1-888-RXFORNJ - in a matter of months has proven helpful to thousands of Jersey residents.
Three out of four of the 68,000-plus Jerseyans seeking help in the last few months have been matched with programs to help them obtain medicines. If the national effort proves as successful, millions more patients will be helped.
Last year, drugmakers were able to boast of a 22 percent increase in the number of discounted prescriptions issued under patient-assistance programs. But by the industry's own estimate, it should be giving away millions more scripts to meet the needs of the uninsured. This new effort should be judged on how many of those patients actually are reached, and receive help, in the coming months and years.