On average, Americans spend $1,200 per person on prescription drugs every year. Certain medications are shockingly expensive. For example, Revlimid, a prescription that treats blood cancer, runs around $20,000 for a 30-day supply. To say that most people can’t afford a price tag like that is an understatement. But, even if you can’t shoulder the cost of your medications, that doesn’t mean you have to skip your meds. It is possible to get free medicine from drug makers. If your prescription costs are too high to manage, here’s what you need to know about this option.
Free Medicine Through Patient Assistance Programs
Most major drug manufacturers offer a patient assistance program (PAP). Also known as a pharmaceutical assistance program, it is designed to help individuals who may not be able to afford their medication without some help. While the programs focus mainly on the uninsured and underinsured, others may also qualify.
If you are eligible for the PAP, then you’ll get access to free or low-cost medication from that manufacturer. Precisely how that unfolds varies by program, so you’ll have to go over the details to determine how the drug maker ensures you aren’t stuck with the financial burden.
However, it could involve the drug maker shipping your prescription straight to your door or directly to your doctor. When this occurs, either you or your doctor will need to play your refills well in advance. It can take several weeks for new orders to arrive, so you’ll have to be on top of things to ensure you don’t run out of your meds.
Qualifying for Free Medicine from Drug Manufacturers
Every PAP has different eligibility criteria. Usually, the biggest determining factor is your household’s income. Since a PAP is meant to help those who can’t afford their medication, your household’s income has to be below a particular line. That limit is set by the drug maker, though it’s typically higher than the limit for Medicaid eligibility.
The manufacturer may also take other factors into consideration. For instance, some drug makers also gather information about your assets. You might have to provide details about any investment accounts, for example. When that occurs, even if your income is low, if your investment account balance is healthy, you might not be eligible for the PAP.
Can You Use More Than One PAP?
Generally, yes, you can use more than one PAP at a time. If you have medications made by different companies and meet each manufacturer’s PAP requirements, you may be able to get free prescriptions from both drug makers.
Normally, the only time you couldn’t use multiple PAPs is if they would be covering the same medication. That typically isn’t an issue with drug maker PAPs. However, there are other PAPs that aren’t tied to one manufacturer. They may be more restrictive about using more than one program
Ultimately, it’s always best to read the fine print to find out before you move forward with any PAP. That way, you’ll know if there are any potential issues ahead of time.
The Largest Drug Manufacturer PAPs
Certain PAPs are particularly large. They are run by major drug manufacturers who produce a wide variety of medications. As a result, there may be a significant number of people who could use (and qualify for) assistance, and they have the financial means to alleviate patients of the burden.
Here are just some of the largest drug manufacturer PAPs:
- Gilead Advancing Access Program
- GSK Patient Assistance Program
- Lilly Cares Foundation Patient Assistance Program
- Merck Helps Patient Assistant Program
- Novartis Patient Assistance
- Novo Nordisk Patient Assistance Program
- Pfizer RxPathways
Smaller drug makers may also have their own programs. If you have a medication not made by one of the manufacturers above, consider doing a search. You can use the Medicare PAP finder or use a search engine.
If you go the latter route, do exercise caution. There are PAP scams out there. For example, if you have to pay a fee to apply, it’s a scam.
In most cases, if you head to the manufacturer’s website first, you can access details about its PAP from there, if one’s available. That may be a safer road than using a search engine as you’re starting out on the drug maker’s site.
What to Do Before the PAP Kicks In
Even if you qualify for a PAP, it can take time for your application to process or for you to receive your benefits. If you need medication immediately that you can’t afford, speak with your doctor as soon as possible. They may be able to provide you with some free sample packets to cover the gap, ensuring you can remain on your prescription.
Additionally, your doctor may know about other programs in your area that can help. That way, you can get your medications during the period before the PAP kicks in.
Do you know of any other tips that can help people save on their prescriptions? Tell us about them in the comments below.
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