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Archive for Wednesday, April 6, 2005

New drug program to aid uninsured

April 6, 2005

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— Drug manufacturers, under fire from consumer advocacy groups for opposing legislation to reduce prescription costs, announced Tuesday they would spend about $30 million through June to develop and promote a program that would help poor Americans gain access to the medicines they need.

Throughout the country, hundreds of public and private programs already provide some assistance to consumers who can't afford their prescriptions. But finding out about the programs and accessing them can be a daunting bureaucratic task for doctors, let alone consumers.

The new program establishes a Web site and calling centers to match consumers with the program that best suits their needs. The drug manufacturers' partnership is spending $10 million to promote the campaign. It took out full-page advertisements Tuesday in several large newspapers and also will air television ads.

In addition, more than $20 million will have been spent developing the program and running three call centers through the end of June, the program's organizers said.

Drug manufacturers have been criticized for their opposition to legislation designed to reduce the cost of prescriptions through such measures as allowing drugs made in the United States to be reimported from countries where the drug is available at a lower cost.

Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, an advocacy group that often is at odds with drug manufacturers, said some of the charitable programs offered by the drug companies were helpful to consumers. Others are marketing tools.

Consumers can access the Partnership for Prescription Assistance program by calling a toll free number, (888) 477-2669, or through the Internet at www.pparx.org.

"It clearly is a public relations response to the widespread criticism concerning the skyrocketing prices that the drug companies continue to charge and to put as warm a face as possible on these growing problems," Pollack said.

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