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Pfizer Extends Medication Giveaway For Jobless

NEW YORK (AP) ¿ Drugmaker Pfizer Inc. said Thursday it will extend for another year a program that provides free prescription medications to people who have lost their jobs.

The world's largest drugmaker also said it will add drugs from former rival Wyeth, which Pfizer purchased for $68 billion. The program will be extended through Dec. 31, 2010.

Pfizer said in May it would give away more than 70 of its most widely prescribed drugs for up to a year to people who have lost jobs since Jan. 1 and have been taking the drug for three months or more.

Drugs covered in the program include some of Pfizer's top money makers, from cholesterol fighter Lipitor and painkiller Celebrex to fibromyalgia treatment Lyrica and Viagra for impotence.

Wyeth drugs added include the blockbuster antidepressant Effexor, and the menopause treatments Premarin and Prempro.

A Pfizer spokesman said in May the drugmaker started the program because patients were in need. But Pfizer also receives a tax write-off and keeps its customers. Plus some analysts hailed the deal as a brilliant marketing move that keeps inventories from piling up.

Patients can call a toll-free number, 866-706-2400, to sign up, and those whose drugs are not included in the program will be referred to other company aid programs. Patients can also apply online at www.PfizerHelpfulAnswers.com.

Pfizer shares rose 9 cents to $18.33 in Thursday afternoon trading.

Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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