No joke: Pfizer offers free meds to unemployed

Big patient-assistance news (and this time we got it directly from the company's vice president of communications, so it can't be "vendor error"). Pfizer announced that it's going to hand out drugs for free to unemployed Americans and their families who've lost their health insurance. Any American who has lost a job since January 1 can enroll in the program, regardless of previous income.

If we didn't know that companies as big as Pfizer tend to move slowly on such things, we'd say it might have been prompted by GlaxoSmithKline's supposed 50 percent discount for the uninsured announced last week--and just as quickly unannounced as the company and its press release distributor PR Web admitted it was a fake release set loose by mistake. In any case, the idea didn't come from the company's top brass: Pfizer employees pitched the idea to senior execs after witnessing their friends and families suffer from untimely layoffs and the attendant loss of health insurance.

"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. "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." To help pay for the program, Pfizer Foundation will match any donations from Pfizer employees.

There are various eligibility requirements and other red tape. The program covers 70 of Pfizer's primary-care meds, and will be open for enrollment through year's end.

- see Pfizer's announcement