Medicine help available
By Brittany Yap
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Brittany Yap
Keiichiro Takano estimates he and his wife spend a third of their $3,000-a-month income on prescription drugs.
"It's killing us," said the 88-year-old Kaimuki resident who survives on Social Security and pension. "I drained my IRA account. I never dreamt I'd be running into a problem like this."
Yesterday, Takano took the first steps toward getting help and saving money on prescription drugs.
The Partnership for Prescription Assistance, a growing national program to help patients access affordable prescription medicines, was at the state Capitol lawn yesterday morning with their "Help Is Here Hawaiian Express" bus, a traveling center making its way across O'ahu, the state and the country to raise awareness and educate the public about patient-assistance programs.
PPA has helped more than 2.5 million patients nationwide — and more than 5,000 here in Hawai'i — get free or affordable prescription medicine, said Ken Johnson, the senior vice president of Communications and Public Affairs for Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. The program was launched in April 2005 and is sponsored by America's pharmaceutical companies that work with doctors, pharmacists, healthcare providers and community groups. Johnson said he is putting a special emphasis on Hawai'i because he "wants to boost the numbers up."
People with no insurance, are underinsured or have a hard time paying for the medication should enroll in the program. According to Johnson, a family of two with an income of $21,000 and a family of four with an income of $30,000 qualify for some free prescription medication. If a couple makes, like the Takanos, $36,000, reduced-cost medicines may still be an option.
For people to find out if they qualify, they have to answer 10 eligibility questions. This can be done online, over the phone or in person at one of the enrollment events. After that, people print out the form with their basic information on the medications they use, have their doctor sign it and mail it in.
It takes about two weeks before finding out if they qualify for anything. And if they do, as early as a week later they start receiving their prescription medications in the mail.
Johnson hopes for a larger turnout today and for the remainder of his two-week push in Hawai'i.
Partnership for Prescription Assistance will be at 24 sites around O'ahu, Maui and the Big Island over the next two weeks. Specialists will be on hand with six wireless telephones and computers to help people enroll.
"This program is real, and the help you can get is real," Johnson said.
As for Takano, he felt his bus ride to the state Capitol yesterday was worth it.
"They're very, very helpful," Takano said.
Although he still has to fill in some information he didn't have on hand with him yesterday, he said he'll fill out the rest of the application when he gets home and mail it in. He was told that within two to three weeks, he will find out if he qualifies for help with the cost of his and his wife's prescription drugs.
Sometimes it's so bad, Takano said, that "We have to decide whether we'll buy food or prescription drugs. We're mighty thankful people are helping us out."
Reach Brittany Yap at email@example.com.