CONSUMER ALERT!

Consumer Protection Division
(208) 334-2424 or
Toll-free at (800) 432-3545

Media Contact: Bob Cooper
(208) 334-4112

Date: April 20, 2007

“Free” Meds Not Always Free

(Boise) - Attorney General Lawrence Wasden today cautioned Idahoans about companies that charge fees to help consumers obtain free or discount prescription medicine.

“Although some prescription assistance programs genuinely try to help consumers with their medication costs, others take consumers’ money and provide little or no assistance in return,” Wasden said.

Wasden said his office has received complaints indicating that some businesses make exaggerated claims about a patient’s eligibility for free medicine and the business’s ability to obtain assistance. Consumers have reported paying fees of up to $200, only to find that they are not eligible for assistance or that the business does very little to help them.

Some businesses merely provide forms that patients could obtain free from their doctors or from prescription drug companies. Patients then must complete and submit the forms themselves.

Wasden said that because eligibility requirements vary among prescription drug companies, assistance programs cannot guarantee an applicant will qualify for free medications.

“This appears to be a variation on an old theme we’ve seen with offers for grants, scholarships and certain kinds of government jobs,” General Wasden said. “The consumer pays for information that is available at no cost elsewhere. The information provided is often inaccurate or less helpful than advertised.”

When consumers request refunds for unsatisfactory service, the business may refuse the requests, go out of business or disappear completely. The consumers are left with the same medical bills but have also lost hundreds of dollars in fees paid for assistance.

Wasden reminded consumers that they don’t have to pay for information on how to obtain free or low-cost prescription medications. If you think you may be eligible for free or discounted prescription medicine, ask your doctor or health care provider for information on how to apply. Some pharmaceutical companies have also formed partnerships with health care providers to help patients with prescription costs. The Partnership for Prescription Assistance is one such organization. Consumers may call 1-888-477-2669 for more information or visit the Partnership’s website at www.rxidaho.org.

Consumers who have lost money to a prescription assistance business can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit. Complaint forms are available on the Attorney General’s web site. Consumers may also request a complaint form by calling 334-2424 or writing to P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID 83720-0010. Idaho residents outside the Boise calling area may call the toll free number, 1-800-432-3545.

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