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'Help is Here' bus stops in Hagerstown with prescription for high costs of medications

September 23, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN -- Victoria Mohr of Hagerstown should be taking 12 prescription medications to treat an inherited lung disease and complications stemming from a car accident.

But just one of those drugs costs as much as $600 a month, and another costs $200 each month, keeping most of the prescriptions out of reach for Mohr, who is disabled. The 38-year-old said she is taking only one-third of the drugs her doctors recommend, and even those are generic versions.

"Prescriptions are outrageous," Mohr said.

On Monday, she sought relief from high prescription drug costs by visiting a bus parked at Municipal Stadium in Hagerstown. The bus, known as the "Help is Here Express," is part of the Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA) - a nationwide effort sponsored by America's pharmaceutical research companies.

Mohr was one of about 40 people who visited the bus within the first hour it was open. Information was available about how to find free or reduced-cost prescription drugs through partnering agencies.

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Representatives with the Washington County Community Action Council were on hand.

Mohr said she found the help she needed; some of her prescriptions are available for $20 for a three-month supply. Others are free or nearly free, and Mohr said it appeared she'd be able to take nine of the 12 medications she has been prescribed.

Ed Belkin, spokesman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said that more than 5 million patients in the United States, including more than 78,000 in Maryland, have been served by PPA.

Belkin said 1,503 Hagerstown-area residents have called for prescription assistance, and 1,492 of them have been matched with partnering agencies.

"We want them to take control and manage these diseases, not the other way around," Belkin said of those who have sought help.

Jason Van Allen, 31, of Hagerstown, suffers from psoriasis, a lifelong skin disease. He does not have insurance, and with medicine that can cost as much as $400, Van Allen said he relies on free samples.

"I can't afford to pay," he said.

Rita Crane, 55, of Hagerstown, is disabled and receives Medicare, but there are still some medications she cannot afford. Crane said she has high cholesterol and high blood pressure, which both are treated with expensive medications. Thirty-day supplies of each pill cost almost $60.

Because she cannot afford the medication, she asks doctors for free samples. However, because she cannot drive, Crane relies on family members to drive her to the doctors' offices. Her daughter, Stephanie Crane, drove her to Monday's event.

Crane said free samples are not always available, and that is not a reliable way to get the medicine she needs.

Belkin said officials not only want people to have access to the medications they need through PPA, but also to gather information and awareness about addressing the rising rates of chronic disease. Patients also can learn about new developments in the fight against chronic diseases, like cancer, heart disease, diabetes and asthma.

Partnership for Prescription Assistance

1-888-4PPA-NOW

www.pparx.org

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