Medicare's needy struggle to get drugs

According to some advocacy groups, it looks like pharma companies aren't coming up with free prescription drugs for the needy Medicare recipients, despite a pointed congressional request eight months ago. Several pharma companies had called off their drug assistance programs for Medicare patients once Part D became effective last year. The drug makers said that they were afraid they'd be accused of violating anti-kickback rules if they kept the programs open, though CMS has since said that the programs can be set up in a way that won't expose them to kickback accusations.

To date, about half of the members of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America have gone back to offering assistance to needy Medicare members, including AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Pfizer and Wyeth. Still, that leaves another 50 percent who aren't involved. Legislators haven't reached the point of pushing harder regarding the free drug program issue, but it wouldn't surprise anyone if a newly-installed Democratic Congress took the issue on again shortly.

For more information on the free Medicare drug issue:
- read this item from The Tennessean