Pfizer offers free medicines for unemployed patients

Pfizer Inc. has launched a program called MAINTAIN (Medicines Assistance for Those who Are in Need) to provide more than 70 primary-care medicines for free to newly unemployed Americans.

Key Points

New York-Recently unemployed patients taking Pfizer's latanoprost ophthalmic solution (Xalatan) to lower their IOP and delay or prevent glaucoma are eligible for free medicine under a new program the drug manufacturer has launched.

The program, called MAINTAIN (Medicines Assistance for Those who Are in Need), will provide more than 70 primary-care medicines for free for up to 12 months or until patients become re-insured (whichever happens first).

To be eligible, patients must have become unemployed since Jan. 1, been prescribed and taking a Pfizer medicine for at least 3 months prior to becoming unemployed and enrolling in the program, not have prescription drug coverage, and attest to financial hardship. The enrollment period ends Dec. 31.

Pfizer said in a press release that the program was initiated by employees who were concerned about recently unemployed friends and neighbors. Nearly 46 million Americans lack health insurance coverage, and that number is increasing as unemployment rates reach their highest levels in 25 years, the company said.

According to the company, Pfizer employees suggested the program in April and have asked to "do their part by donating their own money to the program." The Pfizer Foundation will match their donations. The company did not say how much money such a program will cost, and it is keeping a low profile about the program, aside from issuing the press release. Pfizer spokesman Christopher Loder did not respond to requests for more information and interviews.

"The current economic environment has added considerable new stress to the daily life of millions of hard-working Americans, and our colleagues are responding to help their neighbors in the communities where they reside," said Jeffrey B. Kindler, chairman and chief executive officer of Pfizer, in the release. "The speed with which we created and approved this program is proof of our commitment to help people access the medicines they need to live healthier lives."

Enrollment information

Although the new program will not be fully operational until July 1, patients can get help by contacting Pfizer at 866/706-2400 or by visiting http://www.PfizerHelpfulAnswers.com/.

Other drugs on the list include celecoxib (Celebrex); nifedipine (Procardia); fluconazole (Diflucan); and sildenafil citrate (Viagra).

Scott R. Christensen, president and chief executive officer of The Glaucoma Foundation, said in an interview that he was glad to see Pfizer making its drugs available to those in need.

"I think it's a fabulous program," he said.

Patients with glaucoma often struggle to adhere to the prescribed daily drug regimen for a variety of reasons, even when they have health insurance, Christensen noted.

"And when they don't have health coverage, they're likely to stop taking their medicine," he said. "What they're doing is inviting progression of the glaucoma."

Open-angle glaucoma affects about 2.2 million Americans aged at least 40 years; another 2 million may have the disease and don't know it.

Christensen noted that most companies do provide drugs if they are contacted by an individual who demonstrates financial need. He said he hopes other drug manufacturers will follow Pfizer's lead so that more people will be aware that help is available.