You’ve heard the saying “nothing in life is free,” but I’m here to tell you it actually is possible to get “something for nothing!” The big pharmaceutical companies each give away more than $200 million worth of free prescription medications each year to people without prescription drug coverage.
The programs are usually called “Prescription Assistance Programs,” but also go by the names “indigent drug program,” “charitable drug program” and “medication assistance program.” They are meant to help people who aren’t old enough to qualify for Medicare and aren’t poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. If you don’t qualify for free medications, you might well qualify for deeply discounted ones.
Programs vary, but here’s a general idea of the income requirements. You will usually be approved if:
- You’re single and make between $25,00 and $45,000 a year.
- You’re a couple making between $35,000 and $60,000.
- You’re a family of four making $55,000 to $90,000.
Some drug companies also ask about your assets, in addition to your income. So, for example, if you make a skimpy salary but have a fat investment account, you could be disqualified.
One red alert: There are scammers out there who charge people big bucks for help accessing these programs. They’ve been known to make hundreds of dollars just for sending you forms you can access yourself for free. Never pay to apply.
To make sure you’re dealing with legit organizations, here is a list of clearinghouse websites that link you with hundreds of individual drug companies and programs.
- Needy Meds: This nonprofit was started by a social worker and doctor to help people find these programs. NeedyMeds.org
- Partnership for Prescription Assistance: Run by PhRMA, the largest drug-industry trade group. PParx.org
- RX Assist: Founded by Volunteers in Health Care, which is affiliated with Brown University. RXAssist.org
To apply you will need to fill out a form providing information about yourself. You may also be asked for some supporting documentation. Here are the basics:
- Your meds: A list of the name brand prescription medications you and your family take.
- Your family: The number of people in your family and their ages. Proof of their citizenship status.
- Your income: Some companies ask for proof such as a W2 form and may also ask about assets.
- Your coverage: You may be asked for paperwork showing you have no prescription drug coverage or that the medication you need is not covered.
- Your prescription: Once you have completed the paperwork, you will print the form and have your doctor sign it to authorize the prescription.
Programs vary, but it typically takes about ten business days to get approved. Once you’re in, you will either receive your medications by mail or pick them up at your local pharmacy or your doctor’s office.