Prescription assistance bus makes stop

October 23, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- A traveling prescription assistance program helped more than 20 people in Hancock and nearly 40 people in Hagerstown learn how to get their prescriptions free or nearly free Friday as part of the Help is Here Express bus tour, tour spokeswoman Erin Oldfield said.

The tour, a service of the Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA), stopped at the Tri-State Community Health Center in Hancock from 9 to 11 a.m. and at the Community Free Clinic in Hagerstown from 1 to 3 p.m. to help uninsured and financially struggling patients find programs to help pay for their prescriptions.

At both locations, staff invited patients aboard the bright orange bus and asked them questions about their prescription medicines, income and current coverage to generate a list of assistance programs that could help them. PPA searches more than 475 public and private assistance programs, including about 200 offered by pharmaceutical companies, Oldfield said.


PPA then provides patients with the appropriate application forms and helps them fill them out, she said.

The PPA bus tour was launched in April 2005, but the need for its services has grown drastically over the past year due to rising unemployment, officials said.

The widespread need for prescription assistance was evident immediately during the tour's stop in Hagerstown, said Kaelan Hollon, a spokeswoman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which sponsors the Help is Here Express tour.

"We had people waiting for us before we even pulled in," Hollon said.

One of the people who visited the bus Friday in Hagerstown was Monica Espinoza, 34, who said a doctor had prescribed her an expensive inhaler-type drug to treat a respiratory condition. Espinoza, who is out of work, was supposed to take the drug for two months, but each one-month supply cost $50, so she could only afford one, she said.

PPA staff found her a program that would reduce the price for her second month's supply to $20, she said.

"It's very nice," she said.

Hollon said helping people afford medications can be an emotional experience.

"I've had people crying and hugging me," she said. "Especially with the economy the way it is, people are having to make tough decisions. When they find out help is there, it's just great to be a part of."

People who missed the Help is Here Express can get the same assistance by calling 1-888-4PPA-NOW or going to, Hollon said.

If you missed the bus

The Partnership for Prescription Assistance helps uninsured and financially struggling patients find programs to help pay for their prescriptions. Call 1-888-4PPA-NOW or go to

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