Friday, May 15, 2009

Pfizer offers 70 free drugs like Lipitor, Viagra to jobless Americans

Americans who have lost their jobs and health insurance will be able to get free medications like Lipitor and Viagra for up to a year, the world's biggest research-based drug maker announced Thursday.

Pfizer Inc. said it will provide 70 of its medications to Americans who have lost their jobs since Jan. 1 and have been prescribed one of the company's drugs for at least three months.

"We all know people who have been laid off recently and have lost their health insurance, making it difficult for them to pay for health care," Dr. Jorge Puente, Pfizer's head of pharmaceuticals outside the U.S. and Europe, said in a release.

The company's workers proposed the program, called MAINTAIN (Medicines Assistance for Those who Are in Need), after seeing patients struggle with job losses, Puente said.

Pfizer employees also asked to donate their own money to the program, which the Pfizer Foundation will match.

Applicants will have to sign a statement attesting to financial hardship and provide a pink slip or other proof from their former employer.

The program applies to anyone regardless of prior family income, and is open for Americans to enrol through Dec. 31, 2009.

It is not available for Canadians, a spokesperson said.

Drug spending up

The program will also likely keep patients loyal to Pfizer brands, including cholesterol fighter Lipitor, painkiller Celebrex, Viagra for impotence, as well as popular classes of antibiotics, antidepressants, antifungal treatments, heart mediations, contraceptives and smoking cessation products.

"There's a long-term benefit there, beyond the goodwill and the publicity," said David Heupel, health care portfolio manager at Thrivent Large Cap Growth Fund.

"Pfizer is trying to maintain their [market] share, if not grow their share" by keeping people from switching to cheaper generic versions of its drugs.

On Wednesday, pharmacy benefits manager Medco Health Solutions said prescription drug use in the U.S. fell last year, but total spending on drugs increased as prices rose on brand-name products.

The company, which handles drug benefits for 60 million Americans, attributed the overall decline to fewer new drug launches, the move to make the allergy medication Zyrtec and laxative Miralax available without a prescription, and safety issues for some drugs.

On Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama announced pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, union members, doctors and hospitals have pledged to cut spending by $2 trillion over 10 years to hold down spiralling health costs.

Spending on prescription and non-prescription drugs has also been rising in Canada since 2006, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

With files from The Associated Press


Prescott said...

Chronic pain is very severe and this affects people's life, long known to people who suffered from a strange disease, were strong back pains, which were intense and not let them work, as was what they said were the doctor and he prescribed oxycodone for pain, but knew it was a very powerful medicine, and moreover, anxiolytics, and worry that they were doing things that previously did not like eating too much, smoking, etc, and read in findrxonline that this drug is well and that we must be very careful with their use, and everything must be under medical prescription.