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Partnership for Prescription Assistance bus provides education

February 11, 2006|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN -

People stepping aboard a luxury bus on Friday were looking for answers to prescription drug problems.

The bus is one of two traveling from city to city as part of Partnership for Prescription Assistance, an education program funded by Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

Through a partnership with 1,200 health-care providers and patient advocacy groups, PhRMA has established a clearinghouse for information on getting free or low-price prescription drugs.

The program, which began in April 2005, has matched more than 1.4 million Americans to about 475 assistance programs, said Edward Belkin, a vice president of communications for PhRMA.

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The clearinghouse gives people information about more than 2,500 brand-name and generic drugs, he said.

The bus that stopped for three hours on Friday at Walnut Street Community Health Center in Hagerstown used to belong to country music singer Patty Loveless, driver Dwight Shelton said.

Shelton, who lives in Mount Airy, N.C., has driven the bus for 60,000 miles on the tour, which included Maryland stops in Salisbury, Easton, Annapolis and Baltimore this week.

At one West Virginia stop, "we had 25 people waiting in line before we even got there," Shelton said.

Instead of bench seats, the roomy bus has small workstations with 12 laptop computers and wireless Internet access.

Julie Carter of Potomac Towers in Hagerstown, who receives Social Security and disability payments, boarded the bus looking for drug cost relief.

Carter said she has several diseases and needs 12 prescriptions to treat them. The monthly cost for her to purchase them would be about $2,000, she said.

Carter walked away with 19 pages of information about companies that she said might help cover all but three of her prescriptions.

She said it took her about 15 minutes to compile the information on a computer.

Searching for programs for her aunt, Dolly Woodcock of Hagerstown found similar success - six or seven possibilities.

"I will go home and get on the phone," she said.

Barbara Rundle, a health services coordinator for Walnut Street Community Health Center, said the prescription information is vital for many people. Without it, "some wouldn't get (drugs) and some would struggle," she said.

Partnership for Prescription Assistance also offers help at a Web site (www.pparx.org) and a toll-free phone number (888-477-2669).

Belkin said the partnership's call-center operators can accept questions in 150 languages.

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