Viagra for free, if you are unemployed.
But that gesture only if you are in the US, and only for a year.
Pfizer, the pharma giant, touted it as an innovative program to help eligible unemployed Americans and their families who have lost their health insurance maintain access to their Pfizer medicines.
More than 70 Pfizer primary care medicines will be available through the program.
The drugs covered include several diabetes drugs and some of Pfizer's top money makers, from cholesterol fighter Lipitor and painkiller Celebrex to fibromyalgia treatment Lyrica.
The list includes drugs from several other popular classes, including antibiotics, antidepressants, antifungal treatments, several heart drugs, contraceptives and smoking cessation products. Cheaper generic versions are available for quite a few of the drugs.
"We all know people who have been laid off recently and have lost their health insurance, making it difficult for them to pay for health care," said Dr. Jorge Puente, Pfizer's regional president of Worldwide Pharmaceuticals, a leading champion of the initiative, named MAINTAIN™ (Medicines Assistance for Those who Are in Need).
"We thought there must be some way we could help recently unemployed people who are taking Pfizer medicines to continue treatment during these challenging economic times."
The program, which applies regardless of prior family income, will be open for enrollment through December 31, 2009 and applies to eligible Americans who have become unemployed since January 1, 2009. It is designed to help recently unemployed Americans and their families who have lost their insurance and who are taking Pfizer medicines to continue treatment for free for up to one year. Nearly 46 million Americans lack health insurance coverage, and that number is increasing as unemployment rates reach their highest levels in 25 years, said a company press release.
Pfizer employees proposed the idea of MAINTAIN to the company's senior leadership team just within the last month. Pfizer employees also asked to be able to do their part by donating their own money to the program, and the Pfizer Foundation will match their donations.
"The current economic environment has added considerable new stress to the daily life of millions of hard-working Americans, and our colleagues are responding to help their neighbors in the communities where they reside," said Jeffrey B. Kindler, chairman and chief executive officer of Pfizer. "The speed with which we created and approved this program is proof of our commitment to help people access the medicines they need to live healthier lives. With the launch of this initiative, which I am proud to say was proposed by our colleagues, we are doing what we can to ensure that recent loss of employment does not preclude people from managing their health."
Eligibility requirements of the new program include:
• Loss of employment since January 1, 2009
• Prescribed and taking a Pfizer medicine for at least 3 months prior to becoming unemployed and enrolling in the program
• Lack of prescription drug coverage
• Can attest to financial hardship
People who qualify will receive their Pfizer medicines for free for up to 12 months or until they become re-insured (whichever comes first).
Pfizer said that from 2004 through 2008, its patient assistance programs helped 5.1 million people get 51 million Pfizer prescriptions for free or at reduced cost, with a total value of $4.8 billion.
To make it easy for people to apply, the program will be integrated into Pfizer's existing family of patient assistance programs called Pfizer Helpful Answers®. A single point of entry makes it easy to get help.
The new program will be fully operational on July 1, 2009.