Program to provide free drugs to seniors

WARREN -- A program to assist seniors in getting free drugs from pharmaceutical companies will be up and running within a few weeks.
About 400 seniors already have applied to take part in the program, said Janet Schweitzer, the executive director of the Senior Citizens Opportunity for Personal Endeavor. Many of them live on between $400 and $500 a month.
"They have to choose between the medicine and buying food," she said.
County commissioners are to present a check for $89,000 to fund the program to the senior center in a ceremony today.
The money will buy computers and fund the salaries of one full-time and two part-time employees. The agency's five social workers also will assist in the pharmaceutical program, and volunteers will be trained to help out.
Complex process: The program is designed to take advantage of pharmaceutical companies' practice of giving away medicine free to qualified individuals. While the companies have been giving away drugs for years, the complexity of applying for them scares many seniors away, Schweitzer said.
There are about 100 pharmaceutical companies in the country, each with its own guidelines for who gets free medicine, and applications have to be signed by the prescribing doctor, she said.
"It is very hard for people to process all the paperwork," Schweitzer said. "It is very overwhelming."
When the program is in place, SCOPE employees and volunteers will gather prescription information from seniors, then use it to complete computerized drug company forms.
They'll forward the documents to the prescribing doctor for a signature, then have it sent to the drug company. Drugs will come back through the mail.
Potential participants for the program will be recruited at SCOPE's senior centers and at meal programs throughout the county, Schweitzer added.

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