PPA efforts paying off for patients

Until just recently, Ginny Drummond of Lumberport, WV, was struggling to cover the cost of her medications.

Until just recently, Ginny Drummond of Lumberport, WV, was struggling to cover the cost of her medications.

She discovered the Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA), and within about two weeks, her struggles were over.

"It's amazing, but it's true," she said about the program. "I get 10 medications, and I get them free."

Her heartfelt sentiment is one of many testimonials I've heard from people all over the country who have seen their disease treatment costs drop, sometimes dramatically, thanks to the PPA. It's become very clear to me that what was started last April 5 by America's pharmaceutical research companies and more than 1,300 local, state, and national partners has been an important boost to many Americans. About 1.6 million patients have been matched in just a little more than nine months to public and private patient assistance programs that provide free or nearly free medicines.

Through a toll-free number (888-4PPA-NOW) and a Web site (www.pparx.org), people all over America can find out in only 10 to 15 minutes if they might be eligible for help from any of the more than 475 patient assistance programs.

And that's what the PPA is all about: people helping people when they need it most. For Kendall DePascal of San Diego, the PPA has turned into what she calls "a blessing" because she was able to get help that covers all of her prescription drug costs.

The challenge now is continuing to reach the many other Ginny Drummonds and Kendall DePascals out there who still need a helping hand and don't know about the PPA. We are rising to the occasion and getting the word out about the program's ability to connect eligible patients to free or nearly free medicines in the following ways:

PSAs and national advertising: Prominent humanitarian and Emmy-winning syndicated talk show host Montel Williams is taping public service announcements and national ads about not only the PPA, but also the two big, bright orange buses traveling the country to match people to patient assistance programs. Williams is also meeting a bus and talking to patients at stops along the way, including recent visits to San Diego and Houston.

The traveling buses: The orange "Help is Here Express" buses, equipped with computers, cell phones, and friendly helpers for contacting the toll-free number and PPA Web site, are crisscrossing America through hundreds of towns and cities state-by-state to help patients in need. The PPA has proved to be a crucial boost to a number of low-income patients, including vulnerable children.

Working with allies: The PPA's local, state, and national partners, including the American Academy of Family Physicians, the United Way and the American Cancer Society, are actively educating the media, policymakers, and even their own members about programs available through the PPA.

The campaign has been intense, but it has paid off. About 65% of those who have sought help from the PPA have been matched to at least one assistance program, and the savings for eligible families have been as high as several hundred dollars to $1,000 each month.

We expect this impressive track record to continue as the buses continue to roll across America and the ads continue to air on national television. I know we're on the right track when I hear from patients like Mary Holliman in Lafayette, TN, who said: "PPA is part of my everyday life, and without it, I do not know if I would still be here today. Now, I get the medicines I need once a week, and each time I fill up my medicine dish, I say, 'Thank you,' to the PPA, for truly it has saved my life."

Billy Tauzin is president and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

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