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Some get help for drug costs

HOPKINSVILLE — People came out in the rain seeking relief from pricey prescriptions.

The Partnership for Prescription Assistance's big orange tour bus was at Jennie Stuart Medical Center, in Hopkinsville, helping area residents qualify for free or reduced-price medications.

Applicants for the assistance program are asked a series of financial questions, as well as what medicines they are prescribed and whether they have insurance coverage.

For those who qualify, there are 475 programs to help them get their medicines. Two hundred are pharmaceutical programs and 275 are a mix of government and private-sector programs.

Jeff Trewhitt, spokesman for the prescription program, said most people in Kentucky need medicine for common chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer, hypertension, stroke, mental disorders, pulmonary conditions and diabetes.

"A 2003 study showed that there are more than 2.7 million cases of chronic diseases in Kentucky," Trewhitt said.

He said that it cost $4.7 billion to treat these diseases.

"Lost productivity on the job cost employers $16.9 billion in 2003," Trewhitt said. "It is essential that patients get the medication they need to treat their diseases."

Shelia Johnson, 59, of Crofton said she has grand mal seizures and has been unable to work since 1985.

Johnson said she visited the orange bus in Hopkinsville to get some financial relief for her 10 prescriptions.

"I am paying $450 a month for prescriptions and I am not taking all of my meds because I can't afford it," she said.

Johnson worked in the medical field for 17 years and was once the head of the radiology department at Muhlenberg Community Hospital.

"I was able to get my medication through Medicare for four months, then the $2,500 for prescriptions from the government program ran out," she said.

A prescription assistance specialist was able to get two of Johnson's 10 prescriptions, but Johnson said those two were not "the big ones."

Her last seizure was seven months ago, and she is at higher risk of having another one because she does not take all of her medicines.

"I was hoping for more help today," she said. "They weren't able to help me get the prescriptions I really need for my illness."

Her husband, Donald, 68, also is on Medicare because his employer no longer provides health insurance.

"My husband is unable to retire because we would have no way to pay for my prescriptions," Johnson said.