NeedyMeds is celebrating twenty years since starting as a website for those seeking assistance with the high-costs of prescription medications. In 1997, Richard Sagall, MD, and Libby Overly, MSW, MEd, both realized a need for a centralized resource for information on pharmaceutical Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs). Over our first ten years, we gained 501(3)(c) non-profit status, introduced our PAPTracker software for advocates helping patients with PAP applications, and started our first newsletter Patient Advocate News (now known as Patient Assistance News; aka PAN).

In 2007, we began to expand the website from more than just Patient Assistance Programs to include government programs and other application assistance providers. The following year we grew to include databases of free/low-cost/sliding-scale clinics, coupons for medications, and other organizations that provide diagnosis-based assistance. The NeedyMeds Drug Discount Card started in 2009, saving users $560,000 in its first year nationwide. To date, the NeedyMeds Drug Discount

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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

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It is no secret that drug prices continue to be a problem in the United States. In a previous blog post, we discussed the environment in which skyrocketing drug prices are allowed to take off.  It has continued to be an important subject to Americans and the ongoing presidential campaigns.  The growing issue of medications costs is punctuated with head-spinning facts such as drugs that are $1,000 per pill in the US costing as little as $4 in India, or the life-expectancy is higher in Costa Rica than the United States despite higher income and amount spent on healthcare by Americans.  Some insurance companies are beginning to fight back against pharmaceutical companies pricing by dropping expensive drugs from their covered medications.

The strategy to drop expensive drugs from their formularies was established two years ago by Express Scripts, the largest pharmacy benefit manager in the US, when they announced they would no longer pay for 48 brand-name medications.  This was a result of many medicines raising over 20% in price over the previous year, so Express Scripts stopped paying for them in 2014 and moved their patients

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Drug prices continue to be a major concern for Americans.  According to a Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll published today, 77% of those surveyed said medication costs were their number one health concern, reflecting recent headline-making increases.  Furthermore, 63% support government action to lower prescription drug costs as a top priority. Compared to a study by the same organization from August, the results are largely the same with notably increased support of government intervention.

The United States is the only developed nation that allows drug makers to set their own prices. Throughout Europe, Canada, and Australia, governments negotiate the price of drugs with pharmaceutical companies in the name of public interest.  The United Kingdom, for example, negotiates through the National Institute of Clinical Evaluation (NICE). NICE researches and analyzes new drugs, procedures, and devices and tells the manufacturers the price the UK is willing to pay. These practices make life-saving healthcare affordable to all those who need it in their countries.

In the US, pharmaceutical companies set the price

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The answer may be an obvious “no” for some, but millions of Americans don’t know the answer or don’t realize that they are a carrier. Hepatitis C is a bloodborne disease that can lie dormant for years or even decades before showing any symptoms. Transmission occurs between blood-to-blood contact, with most new cases stemming from intravenous drug usage and a smaller percentage stemming from sexual activity. The recent heroin epidemics in midwestern and southern states have resulted in a spike of new Hepatitis C and HIV cases, as people are sharing needles without proper needle exchanges set in place.

The largest percentage of adults with Hepatitis C are baby boomers with more than 75% of the adult cases being people born from 1945 through 1965. While the reason why the baby boomers are the biggest population of Hepatitis C carriers is not completely understood, there are a couple ideas. Hepatitis C rates were the highest in the 70s and 80s, which is when many of the baby boomers were young adults. The baby boomers

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