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Program helps provide meds to needy patients

January 6, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Reports show drug prices have gone up, but if you are struggling financially, you may be able to get free prescription meds.Medications keep Shirley Sobolewski alive because she suffers from diabetes plus heart and kidney disease. When Shirley lost her job, she began cutting pills in half in a desperate bid to make them stretch. It wasn't working, and she started preparing to die.

"If I cry and I cry, it's because it's hard to talk about. It was a very hard time for me," Shirley said.

Shirley had seen some Montel Williams commercials about free medicine, but she waited precious months before calling.

"I was just so convinced there was no way somebody was going to give me medicine for free without a gimmick," Shirley said.

But they did within days. It's called the Partnership for Prescription Assistance. Pharmaceutical companies provide free medicines to people with too much money to qualify for Medicaid but too little to afford health insurance.

Rules for getting free prescriptions vary, but typically an individual making less than $21,000 a year or a family of four living on less than $44,000 a year would qualify. There's no time limit, and as long as your income remains tight, the meds keep coming.

"As long as you qualify from an income standpoint, as long as you're uninsured, you can continue to receive your medicines indefinitely," said pharmacist Ken Johnson.

Some of the free medicines come right to Shirley's house in the mail. Others, she picks up at her doctor's office.

Thanks to $1,500 worth of free drugs a month, Shirley is doing well. She's thriving instead of dying.

"Once this got started, I'm really proud of her. She's really empowered by all this," said Dr. Kevin O'Keefe, Shirley's physician.

In fact, the woman who was so skeptical when she saw those commercials has now taped a commercial of her own to let other people know about the Partnership for Prescription Assistance.