August 3, 2005

Roughly 600,000 patients have connected to prescription drug assistance programs under a recently launched PhRMA-led initiative that aims to help low-income Americans afford their medications.

The Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA) has been "a huge success," said PhRMA President and CEO Billy Tauzin. The PPA, which comprises more than 1,200 national, state and local organizations, aims to reach 1 million eligible patients by September, he told a recent press conference in Washington, D.C., to report on the first 100 days of the program.

Launched in April, the PPA provides a website and hotline telephone number to match consumers with roughly 475 different public and private patient assistance programs that offer free or steep discounts on more than 2,500 Rx drugs, Tauzin said.

"Companies have reached a point where they really get it," said Tauzin, who described the PPA as a "breakthrough step" for the industry. "They understand they don't make ice cream. They understand that they make products that are critical to people's lives. You can't be responsible for making the products that keep people alive, and extend and improve human life without making sure that those products reach people who otherwise can't have access."

Tauzin acknowledged the program is expensive for the industry. Drugmakers last year contributed about $4.1 billion worth of products to various assistance programs, in addition to the free samples they delivered to physicians, he said. But Tauzin also stressed that companies are committed to the program for the long haul.

The PPA will continue after the federal Medicare Rx program starts next year. Roughly 70 percent of the people who are calling are under the age of 65, Tauzin said.