Depression Medication Assistance for the Uninsured

Patient Expert

If you're having trouble making ends meet financially, chances are good that you have considered going without your antidepressant medication, especially if it is costly. Since rent/mortgage, food and utilities have to be paid, everything else becomes a lower priority. The problem is that if your health, physical or mental, suffers because your condition isn't being treated, your overall situation could worsen.

I outlined several possible ways to lower treatment costs in a previous SharePost. Another option, in addition to these suggestions, is to investigate patient assistance programs (also referred to as prescription assistance programs). Until a few years ago, when commercials started airing Partnership for Prescription Assistance  (with Montel Williams, who has Multiple Sclerosis), many people had never heard of these programs.

What are PAPs?

Patient assistance programs (PAPs) provide prescription medication to low income individuals who are uninsured or under-insured (for instance, if the insurance plan does not cover their medication). In most cases the drugs are provided by the pharmaceutical company that manufactures them.

Prescription assistance programs are created by a variety of organizations. Most pharmaceutical companies have their own individual programs. There are also a number of non-profit organizations, some backed by pharmaceutical companies, that will connect patients to the appropriate program for free.

What can you get from these programs?

If you qualify, you can get prescription medication either free or at a discount. Also, in some cases patient assistance programs provide not only prescription medication, but also medical equipment.

How do you find these programs and sign up?

A good place to start is with your doctor. Your doctor will have to fill out some forms for you, and chances are that he or she has some experience with PAPs.

In case your doctor can't give you much in the way of direction, I have included a list of helpful links below. The most comprehensive is the Needy Meds website, a clearinghouse about patient assistance programs, run by a non-profit organization. It also has its own discount card program.

Also, some states offer their own prescription assistance programs. You can easily find the relevant information by entering the name of your state followed by "prescription assistance" into a search engine. You can find a list of states, whether they offer a program or not and the contact information here.

Be creative and look around your community. There are even Prescription Assistance Programs at county level and some individual pharmacies sponsor their own programs. There are also small national programs that provide mobile free clinics for the uninsured. The National Association of Free Clinics (NAFC) is one of these organizations and like most they have their own website.

Finally, keep in mind that the application process for patient assistance programs can take weeks or months. You might want to ask your doctor for samples to cover you in the interim. Just don't suffer in silence and don't even consider trying to wait out the problem. Look for the resources you need, talk to friends and family and reach out to your pharmacists, and any local advocacy programs.


RxAssist  - a  directory of patient assistant programs (run by AstraZeneca)
RxHope    - a website with information for healthcare providers as well as patients

Note: the list of drugs after each manufacturer's program name is not exhaustive, but representative.

GSK for You - GlaxoSmithKline's programs. Makers of Wellbutrin, Paxil
Lilly Cares  - Eli Lilly's patient assistance program. Makers of Prozac
Xubex - Makers of generic Celexa, Elavil, Pamelor, Paxil, Prozac, Wellbutrin, Xanax
Forest Pharmaceuticals - Makers of Celexa and Lexapro
NAMI Prescription Drug Assistance Programs  - listed by medication