A new program helping hundreds of Peoria-area uninsured adults get free prescriptions was announced Wednesday at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center’s community clinic.

A new program helping hundreds of Peoria-area uninsured adults get free prescriptions was announced Wednesday at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center’s community clinic.


The free clinic, which serves a maximum of 400 patients, is only the third facility in Illinois to partner with AstraZeneca, a leading pharmaceutical manufacturer, to offer free medicine, including name brands like Nexium, a top-selling pill for gastrointestinal issues.


Though the clinic participates in similar programs with other pharmaceutical companies, Cindy Traver says this is the only one that allows all community clinic patients to be automatically eligible for the free prescriptions.


"This is the first one like this," said Traver, a registered nurse and manager of the community clinic.


Other programs require individual paperwork and requests for medication, which often takes up to six weeks to arrive. With AstraZeneca, the drugs will be in stock, ready to be prescribed. The drugs will be available at the clinic in seven to 10 days, officials said.


"There’s reduced paperwork for us and cost-savings for us," Traver said. "If we weren’t getting these drugs, we would have to purchase them."


Traver said the resulting savings could mean the clinic may be able to expand to help more patients in the future.


"It seems like there’s more people every day who are uninsured or underinsured," said Traver, adding that the most frequently prescribed AstraZeneca medicines include Nexium; Toprol, a beta-blocker to help lower blood pressure; Crestor, which helps lower cholesterol; and Pulmicort, which helps with respiratory problems.


"We see a lot of diabetics, lot of hypertensives. We have people with chronic lung disease and chronic liver problems."


Karissa Laur, director of patient assistance programs for AstraZeneca, said her company last year "provided nearly $10 million in savings to approximately 9,500 people in Illinois, and we are looking forward to partnering with the St. Francis Community Clinic to help more and more people."


By the end of 2008, AstraZeneca reports it plans to provide free medicines to about 250 facilities nationwide. Currently, they have partnered with 130 organizations and clinics like Peoria’s community clinic. The Crusader Clinic in Rockford and Community Health in Chicago are the only two other Illinois facilities so far with this program.


AstraZeneca started its prescription savings programs in 1978 with one of its breast cancer drugs, Laur said, "so those in need didn’t have to go without."


"While AstraZeneca can’t determine the final price that patients pay for their prescriptions, we do recognize that there are things we can do to lower the cost for patients in need."


Jennifer Davis can be reached at (309) 686-3249 or jdavis@pjstar.com.