Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week

This week, President Obama issued a proclamation marking this September 18-24 as Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week. Opioid abuse is a major health concern in the US; drug overdoses kill more Americans than traffic accidents, and more than 60% of these deaths involve opioids.

As part of Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week federal agencies are expanding coverage for substance abuse treatment, establishing measures with the Chinese government to combat the supply of drugs coming into the US, increasing patient limit for practitioners prescribing medication-assisted treatment, and support educational and telemedicine programs that expand access to healthcare and treatment.


A large part of spreading awareness of opioid abuse is to relieve the stigma surrounding those suffering from addiction. The feelings of disgrace and negative self-worth from society’s attitude and misconceptions about addicts can dissuade those in need from seeking treatment.  Last year the local Gloucester, MA police department started a program to help addicts that has since been adopted by over a hundred other departments in 28 states. In July 2015, Gloucester PD launched the Angel Initiative that promises to not charge addicts who voluntarily surrender drugs or paraphernelia but instead gets them started on a fast-tracked process towards detox and recovery. Since its inception, the Angel Initiative has helped over 450 people get treatment for addiction with no arrests while maintaining dignity of those who need help. It also led to the creation of the Police Assisted Addiction Recovery Initiative (PAARI) to help promote recovery and alternatives to police departments and communities looking for more options to combat opioid addiction.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 78 Americans die each day from opioid overdose—more than half of which are from prescription medications. Opioids are often prescribed for acute severe pain, with patients typically using them for four to six weeks before tapering off and moving on to other options. Problems often arise when opioids are treating chronic pain which does not go away, and can lead to side effects such as sedation or confusion. Addiction can occur even over a short period of time, and overdoses can happen easily when taking more than prescribed or when mixing with other medications.


NeedyMeds has information on camps and retreats for those recovering from addiction as well as for children who have been affected by a family member’s addiction, in addition to a few programs to help with mental health counselling, sober living housing, and legal services local to the states of Massachusetts and New York.  For more information, call our toll-free helpline at 1-800-503-6897.

When Free Medicines Aren’t Free

You may have seen the ads claiming a company can help you get all your medications for free. These sites may claim there are “secret” programs run by pharmaceutical companies that provide medicines for free – and only these sites know how to access them. Other sites may claim “for a low monthly fee” they can get you your medicines at no cost.


Let’s take a look at these claims and learn the truth.


First, there are no “secret” programs. Most pharmaceutical companies have patient assistance programs (PAPs). You can find out about them on the companies’ websites, drug-specific websites, or at NeedyMeds. Some even mention them in their television ads. These are the “secret” programs the website ads refer to. Nothing secret about them!

Second, despite claims made on websites, PAPs don’t help with every drug. Each pharma company decide which drugs to offer on their PAP. Some include all their drugs, others programs only include certain drugs. What’s rare is to find is a program that provides free generic medicines.

Third, not everyone is eligible. Each program has its own eligibility guidelines based on income and insurance coverage. Some will help people on Medicare, others won’t. There is a wide variety in eligibility requirements. If you make too much money or your insurance covers the drug, then chances are you won’t be able to participate in the program.

Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, you don’t need any help applying to these programs. You can do it all yourself for free. The information you need and the application to apply is available on the manufacturer’s website and on NeedyMeds. Most applications are straightforward and easy to complete. All will require some input from the health professional who wrote the prescription.


If you are on a number of drugs you may find that each is on a different PAP. That means you may be filling out a number of applications. This can become quite time consuming. In this scenario you might find it easier to use one of these companies. But there is an alternative.


NeedyMeds list over 1,000 programs that help people find and apply to PAPs. All provide assistance for free or at a very low charge. You can see if there’s such a program near you by going to the Application Assistance section of the NeedyMeds website.


Here are some tips if all else fails and you decide to pay for help from a commercial application assistance program:

  • Check the reputation of the company – The easiest way to do this is to Google the company name with “complaints” and see what comes up. If you find lots of complaints then try a different company. You’ll find some companies have lots of complaints filed against them and others have a clean slate.

  • Be prepared to give a stranger a lot of personal information – The company helping you complete the applications will need a lot of your information such as date of birth, Social Security number, insurance and financial information, the medicines you take, your diagnoses, credit card or checking account numbers and more. Do you want to share this info with a stranger over the Internet?

  • Are they a legitimate business – Make sure their website includes a mailing address, preferably a physical address rather than a Post Office box, an email address and a phone number. Check out their Better Business Bureau listing.

  • How good is their customer service – Call their toll-free helpline number and ask some questions. (Steer clear of any that don’t have a toll-free help line.) Are they courteous and helpful on the phone or do they give you the bum’s rush? Send them some emails and see how quickly they get back to you and if the information they provide is useful.

  • Be careful how you pay – It’s best to use a credit card. If there are problems, your credit card company can help resolve them. Never give access to your checking account.


There are some legitimate commercial application assistance programs that provide good service at a reasonable price. But there are also those that are less than reputable, providing poor service while charging a lot.

The most important thing to remember is you never need a for-profit company to access PAPs. You can do it all yourself with the information you’ll find on the NeedyMeds website.


Rich Sagall, MD, is the president and co-founder of NeedyMeds. He practiced family and occupational medicine for 25 years and now devotes all his time NeedyMeds. He has written and spoken on the obstacle people encounter in paying for their healthcare and medications.

Back-to-School Health Tips

It’s time for children to go back to school where they will be exposed to lots of new experiences and ideas but also higher risk of exposure to viruses and other illnesses.  Here are tips to ensure your children has a successful and healthy time in school.


  1. Vaccinations are the best course for preventing illness.  In addition to the vaccines recommended by your doctor, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone over 6 months of age.
  2. Sleep is essential to keep children (and adults) focused throughout the day.  Adults need about eight hours of sleep, while young children often need more.  It’s important to set a bedtime that ensures they get enough sleep, and to keep a consistent schedule.
  3. It is never too early to teach good hygiene habits.  To help children avoid getting sick and prevent them from bringing germs home, it’s important to show them how to wash their hands after using the restroom or before eating.
  4. A healthy diet can help children grow and learn more effectively, as well as keep their immune systems primed to fight off illness.  Avoid junk food and soft drinks, and consider packing childrens’ lunches with healthy snacks.
  5. file0001321608732Going back to school is stressful for both parents and kids; for some children, it may be a new sensation.  Help manage stress by talking to children about anything bothering them and take care not to overload anyone’s schedule. Schoolwork is important, but it is essential to relax, play, and spend time with family.
  6. Student backpacks should never weigh more than 10-20% of a child’s body weight, and should be adjusted properly to the bottom of the pack sits at the child’s waist.  Encourage children to use both shoulder straps; slinging a backpack over one shoulder can strain muscles and hurt one’s back.


Children of different ages may have different experiences in school, but these tips are a good foundation to staying healthy while learning and growing.  As written about previously, if you’re child has allergies and you are having difficulties affording EpiPens there are Patient Assistance Programs (PAP) providing two-packs for low or no cost, as well as coupons.  If you are having trouble accessing vaccination or other services, NeedyMeds has a database of over 15,000 free, low-cost, and sliding-scale medical clinics all over the country. The NeedyMeds Drug Discount Card can be of help for prescribed medicines, even over-the-counter medications. The free discount card is also available as an iPhone and Android app. For more information, call our toll-free helpline at 1-800-503-6897.

Life-Saving EpiPens Price Rises Over 500%

We have covered the rising costs of medications in previous blog posts (at length), often times regarding specific medications that—while being life-changing—only affects a relatively small population. Despite the smaller personal impact of these raising prices, we address them because they are indicative of a much larger issue.  The issue comes into clearer focus when a life-saving auto-injection device that is necessary to survive allergic reactions for as many as 15 million Americans raises its price by over 500%.

EpiPen has become synonymous with epinephrine auto-injectors used by those with severe allergic reactions.  In 2007 a two-pack of EpiPens cost $56.  Today, the same two-pack is now $365. The device itself contains about $1 worth of epinephrine.



Last year, a generic medication for toxoplasmosis—a parasitic infection that often targets individuals with weakened immune systems such as those with AIDS or cancer—increased from $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill. Despite relatively low prescription rates of the drug, the spike in price caused an uproar in national media and pharmaceutical landscapes.  EpiPens, on the other hand, are incredibly popular in the United States, being able to save the lives of those going into anaphylaxis—a severe and potentially deadly reaction from exposure to an allergen, some as common as bees or peanuts.



With 1 in 13 children living with a severe allergy, the increase in price is putting stress on parents who are trying to prepare children to return to school. A report from the Food Allergy Research & Education advocacy group found some families split two-packs between home and school (doctors suggest having two doses on hand in case of emergency), keeping the devices past their expiration dates, or delay refilling their prescriptions, putting patients in real danger.

Congress is getting involved, asking for an explanation to justify the price increase to a medication that can mean the difference between life and death for millions of Americans. The pharmaceutical company notes that most EpiPens are covered by insurance and they often provide discounts to those in need, though these factors are of little comfort to those who are under- or uninsured and already struggling financially.  Independent Senator from Vermont and former Democratic presidential nominee Bernie Sanders has continued to call it “very, very wrong when drug companies value their profit over the lives of their customers.”


NeedyMeds has information for a Patient Assistance Program (PAP) that provides EpiPen two-packs for low or no cost as well as available coupons.  For more information, please call our toll-free helpline at 1-800-503-6897.

Free, Low-Cost, & Sliding Scale Clinics

One of the most popular sections of the NeedyMeds website is our listing of Free, Low-Cost, and Sliding-Scale clinics. As health care has become more and more expensive, the need for low-cost health care has increased. Many people living in more rural parts of the country have a very limited number of options to see a doctor, and depending on their insurance status the number of available “in-network” doctors is even lower. Many people do not regularly see their doctor, only seeking help when a more serious condition arises. It can be a scary situation to be uninsured and have an unforeseen medical problem come up.


We list three different types of clinics on The first are free clinics, which provide services at no cost to the patient. The second are low-cost clinics that usually have a low flat-fee for all patients or types of visit. The third are sliding-scale clinics; the price for these clinics is based on the patient’s ability to pay, and is usually derived from their income and family size as it relates to the federal poverty level.


Each clinic offers a different variety of services. Many clinics are just medical clinics and do not offer any other services, and there are also many strictly dental clinics. There are plenty of clinics, however, that offer a wide array of services. Some services include women’s health, mental health, family planning, STD testing, vision, pediatrics, podiatry and pharmacy services among others. Each clinic also has its own hours, and may only serve select towns or counties.


medical clinic signEvery clinic also has its own set of eligibility requirements. In most cases these requirements deal with insurance status, income, and residence status. Some clinics require that the patient has no insurance whatsoever while others work with both the uninsured and underinsured. Many clinics accept patients on Medicare and Medicaid—but not all. Sliding-scale clinics in general have an income requirement based on the federal poverty level, making the clinic only available to those under a certain annual income. There are also many clinics that have no income requirements.


We list over 14,000 clinics on NeedyMeds, making it easy to find one near you. From the Free Clinics page, either click on Medical or Dental clinics depending on your needs, and then select your state or type in your zip code to find a clinic in your area. A list of local clinics will appear with contact information, as well as eligibility requirements, services, and hours. You can print out a selection of clinics or the entire page of clinics from your search. We encourage users to check the clinic’s website for any additional information. You can also get the information from our toll-free helpline at 1-800-503-6897.

Older posts «