Free and Low Cost Prescription Drug Programs

If you are uninsured or your insurance does not fully cover your prescriptions, getting the medications you need can be expensive. This is especially true if you have cancer.
Let's say you have a prescription for chemotherapy, but it causes stomach upset, so you need an anti-nausea medication to go along with it. Then the chemo has caused you to become ​anemic, so you need a prescription for an iron supplement. The list can go on and on. The bottom line is that the prescription costs for a cancer patient paying out of pocket can exceed a mortgage payment.

pharmacist and patient
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When You Need Help Paying for Your Medications

Always inform your healthcare provider if you cannot pay for drugs or care. He or she may know of a program firsthand to assist you. Your practitioner doesn't want the worst thing to happen, that you stop taking your medication. There are several programs available that offer free and reduced cost prescription drug assistance.

Medical Social Worker: Your healthcare provider should be able to give you a referral to the medical social worker who serves her program and patients. Every hospital and medical practice has access to medical social workers who can help you find grants and other programs aimed at assisting you with your healthcare needs. This should be your first stop in looking for help.

Partnership for Prescription Assistance: The Partnership for Prescription Assistance is an organization aimed at helping those who can't afford their medications. Their free online database has over 400 programs and over 5,000 medications available for reduced or no cost assistance. They help in determining what you are eligible for and also help you apply for assistance. It is free and easy to access online.

Pharmaceutical Companies: A lot of people wouldn't think prescription drug companies offer assistance, but most do. Find out who the manufacturers of your drugs are by asking your healthcare provider or pharmacist. Then check the manufacturer's website for their prescription assistance programs. Some of the largest pharmaceutical company programs include:

What Not to Do When You Cannot Afford Your Medication

Don't Stop: First, do not stop taking your medication. You may think you can do without one or more of your medications in order to save money, but you need to explore other solutions before you take that drastic step. Contact your healthcare provider/treatment center as soon as you realize you cannot afford the medication.

Don't Skip or Reduce Doses: Do not try to skip doses or scale down the dosage to make your prescriptions last longer. Doing this will make the medication less effective. You can end up completely wasting your money because now you are not taking the dose that will attack your cancer or completely treat your other symptoms and side effects of treatment.

Don't Use Cheap Internet Pharmacies: Be wary of internet pharmacies. Online pharmacies often sell drugs at lower costs. However, you don't know if the product you are receiving is a bootleg version of the drug you ordered. Ask your healthcare provider to recommend an Internet pharmacy before ordering drugs online.

By Lisa Fayed
Lisa Fayed is a freelance medical writer, cancer educator and patient advocate.