Victoria P. Kasdan, R.N, MPH
Executive Director, We Care Manatee
No one should have to choose between filling a needed prescription and paying for food, rent or other living essentials. At We Care Manatee we believe all prescription medications should be safe, effective and affordable. Unfortunately, expensive prescription drugs represent a significant barrier to the prevention, treatment and management of a patient’s medical care. As drug cost continue to rise exponentially, low-income uninsured patients are even more vulnerable to socioeconomic variables that exacerbate disparities in medication access. There are several options available to assist patients who need pharmaceutical assistance but finding and accessing them can be challenging.
FREE Rx Advantage for We Care Providers and Patients
We Care Manatee volunteer physicians who prescribe select medications for We Care patients have access to our Pharmaceutical Prescription Program. This program allows those eligible patients to fill a 30-day prescribed medication, valued between $5 to $400, at one of four local Walmart pharmacies with a We Care voucher at no cost. Prescriptions for birth control, antipsychotics or controlled substances are non-formulary, and generics are substituted for brand drugs whenever available. This provides a convenience for our patients who may otherwise do without needed medication and allows our volunteer providers to be more effective on their behalf. To take advantage of this free Rx program, We Care volunteer practitioners provide a hard copy of a written Rx to the patient for an initial 30-day supply with up to a max. of 2 refills. The patient then brings the written Rx to We Care Manatee. At We Care we verify the patient’s eligibility and confirm that the Rx meets our guidelines. If so, the patient receives a voucher to obtain a free Rx. We also provide free flu vaccine vouchers and a limited number of other vaccinations available and administered at Walmart as recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Please note, we are unable to provide this benefit for prescriptions submitted electronically.
Prescription Assistance Programs (PAP’s)
There are several other options available for reduced drug cost including Prescription Assistance Programs or PAP’s. They often allow patients who qualify to obtain brand name prescription drugs at little or no cost. PAP’s are particularly advantageous for patients who need expensive medications on a recurring basis and where no generic is currently on the market. These may be offered by one or more of the following groups:
- Drug Company Prescription Assistance Programs (PAP)
- State Prescription Assistance Programs (PAP’s)
- Nonprofit Group Prescription Assistance Programs
While PAP’s can save the patient a considerable amount of money, they are not widely used, and the enrollment process can sometimes be overwhelming as well as time consuming to both the patient and provider.
Other Free or Low-Cost Rx Options
While a PAP has its merits based on the type of Rx needed, many seeking more commonly prescribed medications seem to find free discount drug cards and free or low-cost prescription plans offered by a few retail pharmacy chains easier to use and access.
Discount Drug Cards
Prescription drug prices are not regulated. Prices can vary widely for the same drug amongst retail pharmacies, even within the same city or town. It pays to compare but “gag orders” limiting what a pharmacist can say unless directly asked, dose variability, and lack of online transparency can make comparison shopping difficult. Discount drug cards can help consumers shop and compare prices at local pharmacies for prescription drugs. The best discount card programs are ones that are easy to use, widely accepted, and available at no cost. Below are a few frequently used;
Discounted Drug Cards
Florida Rx https://www.floridarxcard.com/
Blink Health https://www.blinkhealth.com
Retail Pharmacy Low or No Cost Offerings
Several local retail pharmacies also have free or discounted medications. They typically offer the most common medications prescribed at low or no cost for certain therapeutic categories, and most of the information about the drugs and associated cost are available to the public online.
Publix offers a 14-day supply of select antibiotics at no cost and charges $7.50 for a 90-day supply of certain maintenance drugs for chronic conditions. Check their online site for updated information on cost and formulary medications that apply.
Walmart offers a discounted flat rate for certain prescription medications. Here the patient can get a 30-day supply for $4 & 90-day supply for $10 on select prescription medications. The formulary changes often, so it’s important to check to be sure the most current version matches what is shown online.
Prescription drugs are often relied upon to treat disease and improve health. In many instances the benefits of prescribed medications outweigh the risk, but cost can impact access and compliance.
When medications become unaffordable it can lead patients to make dangerous choices such as, adjusting dosages, using supplements or OTC substitutions, or other actions that impact compliance and efficacy, including not taking the medication at all due to cost. Today there are several options available to minimize rising prescription cost and encourage medication adherence, including free prescriptions offered under the We Care Manatee program.
Our vision is that all patients have access to quality health care regardless of their ability to pay, including access to affordable prescription medications.