July 21, 2018
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May 12, 2009

Jennifer Brock
(404) 247-8639
(404) 364-1878


By Dr. Mary Harris

Cutting back on health care is a reality that more and more Americans are facing during the economic crisis, especially for the 46 million Americans living without health insurance -- of which 7.4 million are African-American. Due to the economic downturn, increasing unemployment is also forcing consumers to cut back on spending, even on health care to treat and prevent potentially debilitating diseases. Uninsured Americans often delay doctor visits and stop taking medicines, which can result in worsening health and medical conditions that become more expensive to treat. As a result, people without insurance are more likely to be hospitalized or die from avoidable health problems. Cutting back on health care services is not a choice that anyone should have to make, in good economic times or bad.

The good news is that hundreds of public and private resources are available to help people without insurance get medical care and pay for medicine. One such resource, is Pfizer Helpful Answers®, a family of programs that may help people without prescription assistance find help paying for medicines.

I sat down with Mr. Forest Harper, President of the Pfizer African American Leadership Network and a spokesperson for Pfizer Helpful Answers to discuss the program. Here's what he had to say:

Dr. Harris: One in five African Americans lacks a regular source of healthcare because they are uninsured or underinsured. How does this affect their access to medications?

Mr. Harper: Uninsurance and underinsurance directly and indirectly impact access to medicines. Without access to healthcare services, like regular doctor visits, uninsured Americans become more likely to be affected by certain chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease and certain forms of cancer.

Dr. Harris: What is Pfizer doing specifically to address this problem?

Mr. Harper: Pfizer has a longstanding commitment to making medicines available to people without prescription insurance who are prescribed Pfizer medicines by their doctors. That is why we developed Pfizer Helpful Answers, a family of programs that helps uninsured and underinsured patients access Pfizer medicines for free or at a savings. I have been at Pfizer for the past 27 years, and during the past 20 years, we have had patient assistance programs. Every year we try to improve upon these programs and in 2004, we rolled all of our programs under the Pfizer Helpful Answers umbrella to provide a single and simple point of access.

Dr. Harris: How many people have been helped by this program?

Mr. Harper: In the past five years, Pfizer has helped more than 5.1 million patients access more than 51.1 million medicines at a value of about $4.8 billion dollars; however, we've got more work to do. That is why we are partnering with Journey to Wellness as well as community based organizations like the National Medical Association, the National Black Nurses Association, the National Urban League and communities of faith -- to help get the word out about Pfizer Helpful Answers.

Dr. Harris: I would think this would be a real benefit during these tough economic times. Is there any kind of income eligibility requirement in order to get this service?

Mr. Harper: There are eligibility requirements for these programs; however, it's important to remember that there is no catch -- if a patient lacks prescription coverage and needs a Pfizer medicine, we can help them. Age and income do not matter. The best way to determine which Pfizer Helpful Answers program someone may be eligible for is to call us, and a live operator will walk the patient through the application process. It's very, very simple. Pfizer is also a member of the Partnership for Prescription Assistance, an industry association of more than 475 public and private patient assistance programs. So, if a patient is taking a medicine made by a pharmaceutical company other than Pfizer and calls Pfizer Helpful Answers, we can connect them with other programs that can help them get the medicines they need.

Pfizer has done a good job of putting together a consumer-friendly resource. It's easy to access and if you qualify, the benefits can really make a difference. Pfizer Helpful Answers is a wonderful program that helps people access the medicines they need to get and stay healthy. Especially during these trying economic times, it is important to raise awareness of the already existing programs that can help people better manage their health.

To hear more of my interview with Mr. Forest Harper, visit us online at www.journeytowellness.com and search for "Free Programs Help Uninsured Americans Pay for Medicine." For more information about Pfizer Helpful Answers, call 1-866-706-2400 to speak with a live operator, in English or Spanish, or go to www.PfizerHelpfulAnswers.com

This is one program that I think can really help those in need to remain on their "journey to wellness."

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