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Drug companies offer help to poor

Patients who normally can't afford prescription drugs can get them free or discounted directly from the drug company.

By BABITA PERSAUD, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 8, 2003

TAMPA -- Pharmaceutical companies kicked off a media campaign Tuesday for a program they say can help indigent people obtain affordable prescription drugs.

Under Florida law, a patient on Medicaid can receive only four prescriptions. The law is called the Four Script Limit.

If more prescriptions are needed, a patient has to apply for assistance, which usually requires significant paperwork, said Katie Seay, a spokeswoman for Phrma, a trade organization that represents Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Lilly and other major pharmaceutical companies.

But patients also can apply directly to a drug company, which often is willing to provide free or heavily discounted drugs, said Seay, who spoke at a news conference Tuesday at the Peter Davis Health Center in Ybor City, which serves the indigent.

Phrma provides a directory of participating companies in its Patient Assistance Program directory.

Each drug company has different requirements, and the application process can take from one to three months, Seay said.

Dexter Frederick, an internist and pediatrician at the health center, said the program helps him prescribe drugs to patients who could not otherwise afford them.

Terence Stevens, 63, of Lakeland has been on the program for several years. The retired military contractor had a kidney transplant in 1991 and was put on five medications. He uses the program to get the drugs he needs and said it has helped him live longer and enjoy life.

In May, he says, he will be a grandfather.

The program also can help indigent people who have AIDS, said Gene Copello, executive director of Florida AIDS Action.

For more information, call 1-800-762-4636, which is toll-free, or visit www.phrma.org online.

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