Harrisburg, PA (October 22, 2009) — After visiting more than 3,000 cities in all 50 states, the Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA) has reached a historic milestone today by helping the six millionth person at an event in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The PPA is a nationwide effort sponsored by America’s pharmaceutical research and biotechnology companies that links uninsured and financially struggling Americans to programs that provide prescription medicine for free or nearly free. The help provided by the PPA is particularly important in these troubling economic times, when Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate is 8.6% and residents are increasingly facing layoffs and the loss of health benefits.
The PPA “Help is Here Express” bus tour stopped at the Capitol Building Complex on Commonwealth Avenue, joined by Super Bowl-winning running back, likely Hall-of-Famer and asthma patient Jerome Bettis.
Bettis had a stellar career – first during four years at the University of Notre Dame and then 12 years in the National Football League (NFL) with the St. Louis Rams and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The tenacity that he displayed on the field and in dealing with his asthma paid off, and in 2005 – his final season in the NFL – he helped lead the Pittsburgh Steelers to a Super Bowl victory. However, despite his success in football, the chronic disease that Bettis calls his “toughest linebacker” still managed to knock him down occasionally.
In 1997, while playing with the Steelers, Bettis had a severe asthma attack during a nationally televised game. “Up until I had that asthma attack, I always felt that asthma was a situation that I would deal with as needed,” he says. However, that frightening incident altered his view of the disease: “I realized that I was in a life-threatening situation, and I needed to do everything I could do, in my power, to understand what I was dealing with and what I was stricken with.” For the rest of his career, Bettis says he made a stronger effort to “manage and monitor myself to make sure that I was in the right condition in order to be able to play.”
Bettis now works hard as a patient advocate, helping to assure patients with asthma and other chronic diseases that they, too, can pursue their dreams. “I tell kids with asthma to not let their situation become a liability. Understand what you have. Learn how to manage it and learn how to deal with it on a daily basis and you can be successful.”
His advocacy for chronic disease management strikes a chord with financially-struggling patients who may need help managing their own chronic conditions and stand to benefit from the PPA. “The Partnership for Prescription Assistance – for millions of patients – is an important resource for patients managing their chronic disease,” Bettis says. “As someone who has suffered from asthma for years, I think it’s important for patients to know all the resources available so they can manage their conditions and stay healthy.”
The PPA provides a single point of access to more than 475 patient assistance programs that help Americans who are uninsured or struggling financially. Nearly 200 of the programs are provided by pharmaceutical companies.
“The PPA, so far, has helped more than 297,300 Pennsylvanians find out if they qualify for free or discounted medicines – and this vital assistance is still available,” said Ken Johnson, senior vice president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). “That’s good news for Pennsylvania, where there are 543,000 people now out of work.”
Patients who are eligible for help from the PPA’s participating patient assistance programs have access to more than 2,500 brand-name and generic prescription medicines. In addition, the PPA provides information on more than 10,000 free health care clinics in America and has connected more than 287,000 patients with clinics and health care providers in their communities.
Patients seeking help from PPA can call a toll-free number (1-888-4-PPA-NOW) to talk to a trained operator or access the PPA Web site (www.pparx.org). It only takes 10-15 minutes to find out if someone may qualify for free or discounted medications.
To help spread the word about the assistance available, the PPA’s “Help Is Here Express” buses continue to visit communities all over the country with trained specialists on board to provide information on how to access patient assistance programs.
“At a time when national unemployment is the highest in almost two decades, the PPA has become an important lifeline for a growing number of patients,” PhRMA’s Johnson said. “Millions of Americans have been added to the jobless rolls over the last several months and there could be a sharp increase in the number of people losing health care benefits.’’
“PPA is helping thousands of people every day,” Johnson added, including those who need treatments to fight such debilitating chronic diseases as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and asthma.
In Pennsylvania alone, there are millions of cases of chronic diseases, according to the Milken Institute and the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease. Nationwide, more than 133 million Americans suffer from at least one chronic disease, which is responsible for seven out of every 10 deaths in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Many of the most debilitating chronic diseases are closely linked to excess weight – a fact that makes rising rates of childhood obesity particularly alarming. As the number of overweight and obese children has increased, so too has the incidence of some diseases that used to be virtually unknown among children, such as Type 2 diabetes.
In Pennsylvania, more than 28% of high school students are overweight, including 16% who are obese. Well over half of Pennsylvania high school students fail to meet recommended levels of physical activity. Obesity is a problem even among young children, especially children from low-income homes. More than 14% of low-income Pennsylvania children ages 2-5 are obese.
“With the number of people affected by chronic disease increasing every year, and economists predicting that unemployment will continue to grow well into 2009, the PPA and its message of hope are now more relevant than ever,” PhRMA President and CEO Billy Tauzin said. “No one – and I mean no one – is helped by a medicine that sits on the shelf and is out of reach financially. In Pennsylvania, we will continue to help folks all over the state for as long as our assistance is needed.”
On a national level, the Partnership for Prescription Assistance is represented by Emmy-winning syndicated television talk show host Montel Williams, named PPA’s national spokesman in January 2006. In addition, nationally recognized Telemundo talk show host and author Mayte Prida leads the PPA’s Hispanic outreach effort.
More than 1,300 national, state and local partners, including the United Way of Pennsylvania, the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank and the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg, are working with America’s pharmaceutical research companies to spread the word about the program. Trained specialists work with doctors, pharmacists, health care providers and community groups, educating them on the process and use of the PPA’s easy-to-access Web site and toll-free number.
To find out if there are patient assistance programs that may meet their needs, patients should call toll-free 1-888-4PPA-NOW (1-888-477-2669) to speak with a trained specialist or visit www.pparx.org.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) represents the country’s leading pharmaceutical research and biotechnology companies, which are devoted to inventing medicines that allow patients to live longer, healthier, and more productive lives. PhRMA companies are leading the way in the search for new cures. PhRMA members alone invested an estimated $50.3 billion in 2008 in discovering and developing new medicines. Industry–wide research and investment reached a record $65.2 billion in 2008.
PhRMA Internet Address: www.phrma.org
For information on how innovative medicines save lives, visit: www.innovation.org
For information on the Partnership for Prescription Assistance, visit: www.pparx.org
For more information on public health emergencies, visit: www.rxresponse.org
For information on the danger of imported drugs, visit: ww.buysafedrugs.info