Latanoprost solution for glaucoma is included in patient assistance program

June 15, 2009

Newly unemployed Americans and their families who have lost their health insurance coverage and who are taking Pfizer branded medicines, including latanoprost ophthalmic solution (Xalatan), may be eligible for free medicine under a new patient assistance program launched by the manufacturer.

Key Points

Newly unemployed Americans and their families who have lost health insurance coverage and who are taking Pfizer branded medicines, including latanoprost ophthalmic solution (Xalatan), may be eligible for free medicine under a new patient assistance program launched by the manufacturer.

Called MAINTAIN (Medicines Assistance for Those who Are in Need), the program will provide more than 70 primary-care medicines free of charge to patients for up to 12 months or until patients become re-insured, whichever happens first.

To be eligible, patients must affirm:

Tahe program was initiated by Pfizer employees who were concerned about recently unemployed friends, family, and neighbors, according to the company. Nearly 46 million Americans lack health insurance coverage, and that number is increasing as unemployment rates reach their highest levels in 25 years, the manufacturer added.

Pfizer employees first suggested the program to senior leadership in April and have asked to "do their part by donating their own money to the program," the company said.

The Pfizer Foundation will match employee donations, although the company did not disclose how much money such an initiative will cost nor comment beyond a prepared statement. Pfizer spokesman Christopher Loder did not respond to Ophthalmology Times' requests for more information and interviews.

"The current economic environment has added considerable new stress to the daily life of millions of hard-working Americans, and our colleagues are responding to help their neighbors in the communities where they reside," said Jeffrey B. Kindler, chairman and chief executive officer of Pfizer, in the prepared statement. "The speed with which we created and approved this program is proof of our commitment to help people access the medicines they need to live healthier lives."

Although the new program will not be fully operational until July 1, patients can get help now by contacting Pfizer at 866/706-2400 or by visiting http://www.PfizerHelpfulAnswers.com/.

Other medications on the list are celecoxib (Celebrex), fluconazole (Diflucan), nifedipine (Procardia), and sildenafil citrate (Viagra).

Scott R. Christensen, president and chief executive officer of The Glaucoma Foundation, New York, said he was pleased to see the company making medications available to those in need.

"It's a fabulous program," Christensen said.

Patients with glaucoma often struggle to adhere to the prescribed daily drug regimen for a variety of reasons, even when they do have health insurance, Christensen said.

"When they don't have health coverage, they're likely to stop taking their medicine," he said. "What they're doing is inviting progression of the glaucoma."

Primary open-angle glaucoma affects about 2.2 million Americans aged 40 or more years, and another 2 million may have the disease and not know it.

Many pharmaceutical companies provide patient assistance for medications if contacted by an individual who demonstrates financial need, Christensen added. He said he hopes other drug manufacturers will follow Pfizer's lead to make people aware that such help is available.

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