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United States

Helping Uninsured Patients Breathe Easier

  • May 22, 2014
  • Photo by Phil Farnsworth. All Rights Reserved
  • Clinical Services, Chronic Diseases

When he was hospitalized in 2009, Larry Eply received shocking news: In addition to diabetes and hypertension, Larry was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, bronchitis and asthma. Unemployed and uninsured, Larry could not afford the numerous medications he needed to manage his chronic illnesses.

During his hospital stay, Larry, 45, learned about Compassionate Care, a local safety net clinic —one of hundreds of safety net health care partners that receive donated medications from AmeriCares. There at the clinic, he was able to obtain his inhalers and other prescriptions for free. He’s been a regular patient there ever since. “Without the clinic, I probably wouldn’t be here today,” Eply explained. “They take very good care of me.”

To help low income and uninsured patients like Larry breathe easier and avoid unnecessary trips to the hospital, AmeriCares is providing a record quantity of donated medicines to hundreds of clinics and community health centers across the United States in 2014.  More than $3.5 million in prescription medicines —enough to fill about 21,000 prescriptions for patients with acute and chronic respiratory conditions —were donated by pharmaceutical companies.

The donations came from a special appeal for medicines for National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month, but will help patients suffering from respiratory ailments all year long.

The donated products include both maintenance medications such as inhaled steroids, as well as rescue medications for breathing difficulties as a result of asthma or other respiratory conditions. AstraZeneca is the major sponsor of the campaign for a second year in a row, donating the majority of respiratory therapies to the program.  

Traci Milanese, executive director of Compassionate Care, said her Sidney, Ohio clinic relies on inhalers and other rescue medications donated by AmeriCares to help uninsured patients who are referred there with respiratory conditions. The donated products ensure that there are enough medicines on hand for patients to begin treatment right away.  

“When a person is struggling to breathe, they cannot wait for an inhaler,” Milanese explained. “The donations improve our ability to treat patients with chronic diseases.”

The medicines are available to hundreds of free clinics and community health centers serving low-income and uninsured patients through AmeriCares U.S. Medical Assistance Program – the nation’s largest provider of donated medical aid to the U.S. health care safety net. Safety net partners select the products they want from an online ordering system and AmeriCares delivers them free of charge. Last year, AmeriCares made more than 3,000 shipments to U.S. clinics, providing $70 million in prescription and over-the-counter medicines as well as medical supplies for patients in need.

“Respiratory medicines are among the top needs of safety net clinics serving the uninsured,” said Leslie McGuire, AmeriCares director of U.S. Partnerships and Programs. “Many of the products donated are out of reach for low-income patients who need them to manage very serious medical conditions.  By providing these medicines free of charge, we are helping patients avoid unnecessary emergency room visits and hospitalizations.”