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 /ADVANCE/ TULSA, Okla., Aug. 14 /PRNewswire/ -- A new nationwide initiative to quickly improve the medical care of up to 1 million needy Americans now underserved by the nation's health care system was jointly announced today by Pfizer Inc., a major pharmaceuticals company, the National Governors' Association (NGA) and the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC).
 Through community, migrant and homeless health centers in all 50 states, "Sharing the Care: A Pharmaceuticals Access Program" will provide Pfizer single-source pharmaceuticals at no charge to patients who live at or below the poverty line and have no public or private health insurance for pharmaceuticals. The program is the largest pharmaceuticals access program ever undertaken in the United States.
 "These Americans have a great need for the most innovative medicines -- but they are the least able to afford them," said Pfizer Vice Chairman and President of the U.S. Pharmaceuticals Group Edward C. Bessey. "Joining with the NGA and the NACHC, we can get our medicines to impoverished patients in urban and rural areas now, while the plan for reforming the U.S. health care system takes shape.
 "By focusing on this group of Americans who are medically underserved, we will address only one aspect of the nation's health care problem. But I am confident that `Sharing the Care,' which builds on earlier efforts by Pfizer and state governors, will be a powerful example of how cooperation between public and private sectors can benefit people in need," Bessey added.
 "Sharing the Care" is an expansion of efforts by Pfizer and governors to make pharmaceuticals and the health care they provide available to all who need them. It is based on statewide programs in Kentucky, Arkansas and South Carolina, and a test program in West Virginia, through which Pfizer and other pharmaceutical firms provide access to pharmaceutical products at no charge for qualified low-income Americans.
 By operating in community, migrant and homeless health centers, "Sharing the Care" will be able to tap an already-existing primary health care system, one which can reach patients who are frequently isolated and without the means to find care on their own.
 Colorado Gov. Roy Romer, chairman of the National Governors' Association, said: "This program is an outstanding example of governors working creatively with organizations like community, migrant and homeless health centers and companies like Pfizer, to develop effective responses to the real health care problems our citizens face. Together, we are providing assistance that none of us could do alone, and we think all Americans can be excited and proud about this program."
 Gov. Carroll A. Campbell Jr. of South Carolina, incoming chairman of the National Governors' Association, joined with Romer in praising the program: "Governors in the 1990s must find innovative, collaborative solutions to problems. For example, we've just launched a pharmaceuticals access program in my state with Pfizer as our partner. Today, working with community, migrant and homeless health centers and Pfizer, once more, we are bringing medical help to those who have the greatest need -- the impoverished, uninsured patients served by community health centers."
 Gov. James Florio of New Jersey added his support for "Sharing the Care." "This program is a great example of the private sector acting for the public good," he said. "I'm proud that Pfizer is taking the lead in this effort. Too many people lack the peace of mind that comes from knowing their health care needs will be met, and this program will help make sure that the most needy Americans have the peace of mind that comes from access to life-saving medicines."
 The Pfizer products to be made available at no charge through "Sharing the Care" will assist a patient population that represents a significant portion of the medically underserved population nationwide. At community and migrant health centers, approximately 60 percent of all patients have incomes at or below the federal poverty line; women and children comprise about 75 percent of center patients; and approximately 60 percent of center patients are racial or ethnic minorities.
 "Our community, migrant and homeless health centers provide health services to some of our nation's neediest people who are least able to pay for essential pharmaceuticals on their own. By working with our governors and our National Association of Community Health Centers to make its single-source pharmaceuticals available at no charge, Pfizer is helping us make a measurable difference in the lives of our patients," said Jessie Trice, president of the NACHC. "At a time when the demand for health center services is great, and our resources so limited, it is particularly gratifying to see our patients gain access to so many needed pharmaceuticals through such a broad-based initiative," she added.
 "Sharing the Care" will serve community, migrant and homeless health center patients who have incomes at or below the federal poverty line and are not covered by Medicaid or any other public or private insurance covering pharmaceuticals. Initial estimates suggest that between 500,000 and 1 million patients will be covered by the program in its first year. Individual patient eligibility will be determined through existing community health center guidelines.
 The program will operate in all 50 states. This includes approximately 300 community, migrant and homeless health centers in 39 states that operate in-house pharmacies, along with demonstration projects at approximately 36 health centers that do not have in-house pharmacies.
 To determine the potential for expanding the program to all 700 health centers, demonstration projects at a broad range of additional sites will test models for other distribution methods. Health centers that contract for pharmaceutical services with retail pharmacies or utilize physician dispensing models will be included in the demonstration projects.
 Patients will not need to make special arrangements to participate in "Sharing the Care." When physicians at participating community, migrant and homeless health centers prescribe a Pfizer single-source medicine to eligible patients, they will give the patient a voucher for use at the health center pharmacy to obtain the prescription at no charge. Pharmacists will send the vouchers to Pfizer, and the health center will be credited for the products dispensed.
 Pfizer will donate its entire single-source pharmaceutical product line. Pfizer pharmaceutical products address a wide range of conditions, including cardiovascular problems, infectious diseases, diabetes, hypertension, depression and systemic fungal infections common to AIDS and cancer patients. Many of these diseases are particularly prevalent in low-income populations.
 Products included are:
 -- Procardia XL, a once-daily calcium channel blocker for the treatment of angina and hypertension;
 -- Diflucan, an oral intravenous anti-fungal for the treatment of mucosal and life-threatening fungal infections in persons with AIDS, cancer or transplants;
 -- Zithromax, a new azalide antibiotic that treats infections, including a broad range of respiratory tract and skin infections, as well as chlamydia;
 -- Glucotrol, a once-daily agent for diabetes that lowers glucose in response to meals;
 -- Norvasc, a once-daily calcium channel blocker effective in the treatment of angina and hypertension that has been safely used in patients with mild to moderate heart failure;
 -- Cardura, a once-daily selective alpha blocker for the treatment of high blood pressure;
 -- Cefobid, a broad cephalosporin antibiotic for respiratory tract infections and enterrococcal infections;
 -- Zoloft, a once-daily, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor anti-depressant, the class of medicines setting new standards for treatment of the debilitating symptoms of depression;
 -- Unasyn, an injectable antibiotic, a combination of ampicillin and a beta-lactam inhibitor for the treatment of skin, abdominal and gynecological infections;
 -- Streptomycin, an antibiotic used to help combat multi-drug resistant strains of tuberculosis; and
 -- Geocillin, an semi-synthetic penicillin for upper and lower urinary tract infections and asymptomatic bacteruria.
 For more than a decade, Pfizer has made its products available free of charge through its Indigent Patient Program, which provides medicines to qualified patients throughout the country through individual doctors.
 In 1990, Pfizer began providing Diflucan, its anti-fungal medicine, at no charge through physicians to eligible indigent patients with suppressed immune systems, including individuals with AIDS or cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
 In an effort to broaden the reach of its programs, Pfizer has worked with state governors and non-profit coalitions of volunteer physicians and pharmacists, to introduce state-based pharmaceutical access programs in Kentucky (1990), Arkansas (1992) and South Carolina (1993). Working through local pharmacies, these programs provide medicines at no charge to patients certified by state authorities. A demonstration program, which operates through community health centers, was established in West Virginia this year.
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 /CONTACT: Rae Bond of the National Governors' Association, 918-596-1570 (in Tulsa, Aug. 9-17) or 202-624-5898 (all other times); Chris Heller of Pfizer Inc., 918-494-1000 (in Tulsa, Aug. 14) or 212-573-3604 (all other times); Freda Mitchem or Claudia Gibson of the National Association of Community Health Centers, 918-582-9000 (in Tulsa, Aug. 13-15) or 202-659-8008 (all other times); or Rebecca Tillet of Ogilvy Adams & Rinehart, 918-493-7000 (in Tulsa, Aug. 13-16) or 202-452-9402 (all other times), all for "Sharing the Care"/

CO: Pfizer Inc.; National Governors' Association; National Association
 of Community Health Centers ST: IN: MTC SU: PDT

TW-MH -- DC001 -- 2676 08/13/93 16:10 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Aug 13, 1993

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