Councilman hosts meeting publicizing low-cost prescription program

dee-andrews.jpgBY NICK DIAMANTIDES
Staff Writer

Seniors and other people with fixed, moderate or low incomes often have trouble paying for much needed prescription drugs. To help them with that, 6th District Long Beach Councilman Dee Andrews recently hosted two meetings to discuss ways for residents to obtain low-cost medications.
“Being a senior citizen myself, I know that it is important to reach out to my generation especially when it comes to saving money,” Andrews said. “A lot of people in my generation are on fixed incomes, and every penny counts.”
The first meeting took place last Thursday at New Hope Home, a senior apartment complex on New York Street. About 25 people attended. Sabrina Ross, representing Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA), told the audience that the organization provided good options to those who have a hard time paying for medications.
Ross explained that PPA is the largest private sector effort dedicated to helping patients in need find ways to access prescription medicines for little or no cost through patient assistance programs. “The partnership brings together America’s pharmaceutical companies and more than 1,300 national, state and local organizations, including the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Cancer Society, American College of Emergency Physicians, Easter Seals, National Association of Chain Drug Stores, United Way and the Urban League,” she said.
PPA provides a Web site and toll-free phone number to help people find programs that help pay for medicine. “We are not a dispensary but we have a database of 475 programs that cover roughly 2,500 different types of medications,” Ross said. “We will connect you with a program that will send you your medication in the mail, give you a discount card for your pharmacy, or enroll you in a program to help you get a discount on your prescription.”
Ross noted that television personality Montel Williams is the national PPA spokesman. “As many of you know, Montel has MS,” Ross said. “He was going through treatment about two and a half years ago, found out how expensive it was and decided he wanted to help publicize what we do.”
Ross encouraged anyone having a hard time paying for prescription drugs to begin by calling the PPA toll-free number. “You’re going to give one of our operators the list of the medications you are currently taking, then you answer 10 very simple questions,” she said. “Then the telephone operator will match you with programs that you qualify for.”
Once the operator determines the appropriate programs, PPA mails application forms for those programs to the person who phoned. “You have to have those applications signed by your doctor,” Ross stressed, noting that without the doctor’s signature, the applications will not be processed. “If you do not have a primary care physician, we have a list of clinics that we work with so that you can get a doctor’s signature,” she added.
About a week after mailing back the completed and signed application forms, applicants will receive either a letter welcoming them to a program, a discount card, the actual medication, or a letter from PPA asking for more information. “We are referring a lot of our patients to the Wal-Mart, Walgreens or Target $4 plans,” Ross said. “Through those you can get a 30-day supply of generic medications for about $4 and a 90-day supply for around $10. Those are really good deals and there are no qualifications.” (Some PPA programs do have qualifications.)
Ross noted that most discounts available through PPA programs are for long-term prescriptions, but the organization can also help some patients get discounts on short-term prescriptions. “That can be done with an immediate-need discount offered by the pharmaceutical company,” she said. “Call us and maybe we can help you get in touch with the right company.” She added that PPA also has contacts with organizations that help with co-pays and living expenses for people suffering from serious illnesses or injuries.
After the meeting, Andrews stressed the importance of educating the public about ways to get low-cost or free prescriptions. “Too many people are having to choose between buying food or buying the medications that they need,” he said. “We are trying to get the word out that it doesn’t have to be that way. There is something they can do that will save them a lot of money on their prescriptions.”
Andrews conducted a second meeting on the same topic at St. Mary’s Hospital on Saturday.
To contact PPA, phone 888- 4PPA-NOW (888-477-2669) or visit www.pparx.org.

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