lowered the cost of health care for millions of Americans on Wednesday, announcing that its drugs will cost just $15 per prescription for uninsured low-income families and qualified Medicare recipients.
The drugmaker said that its program will be available to at least 43 million uninsured people. Families that make less than $45,000 will save an average of 37% on their medicines, paying prices similar to large purchasers. The company is also expanding an existing program that provides free medicine to families making less than $31,000.
"We are providing choice, simplicity and expanded access to help Americans get the medicines they need," said Hank McKinnell, chairman and CEO of Pfizer. "Because we all know that millions of Americans can't afford health insurance, we are making an unprecedented commitment to help these hard-working people gain access to prescription medicines."
Pfizer said that a person making $41,000 a year who pays $79.58 a month for 10 mg of Lipitor, the company's blockbuster high blood pressure and cholesterol treatment, would pay $52.71 under the program. Qualified low-income Medicare recipients with drug discount cards will get a $600 credit toward Pfizer's drugs, and then pay $15 a prescription fee after that is exhausted.
In response, a large number of politicians, including Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton (D., N.Y.) and New York Governor George Pataki, cheered Pfizer's announcement.
Part of the reason Pfizer is moving to discount drugs is that many of the poor and uninsured don't seek early, preventative treatment of their illnesses, forcing them to pay for expensive treatments when the situation deteriorates. Pfizer noted that 50% of the uninsured avoid seeking treatment because it is prohibitively expensive, with about 20% relying on emergency rooms as their main source of health care.
Another reason behind the push to discount medication is the surge in drug reimportation from Canada, where medicine is often far cheaper than it is from the U.S.