Maine residents who struggle to pay for medications can turn to a number of resources. The government offers MaineCare, Maine Rx Plus, Low-Cost Drugs for the Elderly and Disabled, the Medicare Part D drug benefit and other plans. Some of the programs face cutbacks due to state budget cuts. Private charities also offer help.

A list of options by state is available at, under “application assistance.” Many pharmaceutical companies provide drugs at no cost, and sometimes also offset co-pay costs for patients with insurance, particularly for expensive specialty drugs. is a directory of drug company patient assistance programs, much like NeedyMeds.

To make the most of patient assistance programs, NeedyMeds President Dr. Richard Sagall offers these tips:

Don’t pay to apply. Most drug makers impose no application fee, and organizations or companies that offer help filling out the applications shouldn’t charge for their assistance.

Check back regularly. The list of covered drugs changes frequently. If you don’t see the medication you need, keep checking back to see if the manufacturer has added it.

Consider all of your family’s medications. Say your family takes five medications altogether. Even if the most expensive drug isn’t covered, you might be able to save enough to pay for it if the other four drugs are included in the program.

Talk to your doctor. If the medication you were prescribed isn’t available through a patient assistance program, see if your doctor can adjust your drug regimen. “Maybe there’s a similar drug or a drug that’s equally effective that is on a [program],” Sagall said. “Your doctor may be willing to switch.”

When in doubt, apply. Drug companies have some latitude in their eligibility guidelines. If the form says you can’t earn more than, for example, 300 percent of the federal poverty level and you’re at 310 percent, “There’s a good chance you can get in,” Sagall said.

Jackie Farwell

I'm the health editor for the Bangor Daily News, a Bangor native, a UMaine grad, and a weekend crossword warrior. I never get sick of writing about Maine people, geeking out over health care data, and...