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Low-Cost or No-Cost Medication Services

Kathryn Patricelli, MA Updated: May 18th 2006

Over the past 20 years, the cost of prescription medications has skyrocketed and to compound the issue, most people are seeing their health insurance premiums rise at rates that far exceed the inflation rate. The costs have risen to the point that many are no longer able to afford insurance, in addition to the many who have no access to it at all. Insurance companies have also begun to revise their formulary lists (medications that they will approve) over the past years to reduce their costs, especially of brand name and very expensive medications. These changes result in many people no longer being able to gain access to their necessary medications. However, those same people still continue to have mental health and medical conditions that require medication to stabilize or improve symptoms and going without the medication can be extremely dangerous, if not fatal in some cases.

This has led to the development of services that exist to share information for low cost or free programs where people can receive brand name or generic medications. This information generally includes program contact information, eligibility requirements, and links to applications (or directions on how to obtain an application). These services are generally searchable by drug name. Oftentimes, the program is through the manufacturer of the drug, but there are also federal, state or local programs as well that provide medications to those who are unable to afford them.

There are, however, usually strict requirements for acceptance into the program that must be met before medications are received. For example, using one of the services listed on Mental Help Net and searching for Paxil/Paroxetine HCL, which is a common depression medication, I was able to locate a program through Express Scripts Specialty Distribution Services that would provide a generic version of Paxil. In order to receive it through this program, I would need to have an income at or below 250% of the Federal Poverty Level and would pay an administrative fee of $20 or $30 for each 90-day supply. So in this case, the medication is not completely free, but instead is subject to a co-pay level fee.

Most of the medication programs will have an income requirement that often references the Federal Poverty Level of an individual. This is a guideline established each year by the US Census Bureau that identifies the annual income for families of various sizes that are considered to be living in a poverty situation. For 2006, you can view these guidelines at

Other programs will have established their own income guidelines that must be met and not all programs are for very low-income individuals only. Some programs have guidelines that could include income at or exceeding $50,000 per year. In addition, some programs look at the total medical cost of a condition and determine other criteria, in addition to or instead of income, for acceptance into the program.

Therefore, while not everyone will be able to qualify for these medication programs, it is a great starting place for those who have been denied a medication through their insurance providers or who are unable to afford the cost of health or drug coverage. I strongly encourage you to check out these services if you are in need of medication. The following links can also be found with reviews under the Medications topic center located here:


Written by Kathryn Patricelli, M.A.

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