In an effort to further help people suffering from the economic downturn, the pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer, is extending its current drug assistance program, called MAINTAIN (Medical Assistance for Those who Are In Need), for an additional year, until December 31st, 2010. The current program was set to expire at the end of 2009.

MAINTAIN was designed to provide free medication to people who have lost their jobs, through no fault of their own, and as a consequence, their medical coverage. Qualified people will be able to obtain certain designated medications for one year after their first prescription is filled, or when the regain their medical coverage, whichever comes first. Applications will be accepted up until December 31st, 2010.

The benefits apply to people who fulfill the following eligibility requirements:

  • Can demonstrate loss of employment on or after January 1, 2009;
  • Lack prescription coverage;
  • Attest to financial need; and,
  • Have been on their Pfizer medicine for at least three months prior to unemployment and enrolling in the program.

MAINTAIN was allegedly inspired by the actually employees at Pfizer who expressed concern over the affordability of medication in the event of job loss. They approached the company with a plan in which both the workers and employers would share in the costs.

In the end, the company embraced the idea. By supporting MAINTAIN, Pfizer has made available, at no cost to qualified patients, 70 different drugs, including Lipitor, Celebrex, and Viagra. Pfizer is also extending its MAINTAIN benefits to people who need Wyeth primary care medicines, the result of the two company's coming together. Furthermore, for patients who do not quality for MAINTAIN, Pfizer has other drug assistance programs. For more information as well as a complete list of drugs being offered, go to the Pfizer's Helpful Answers website and click on the relevant links.

Cynics may accuse Pfizer of simply trying to improve their image with a publicity stunt to counter the recent wave of bad press that has targeted big pharmaceutical companies. While they may in fact be trying to maintain customer loyalty, the argument could be made that this is simply sound business practice. Furthermore, the fact remains that they are making these medications available to the public in a time of need, and because of this, consumers will ultimately benefit.

If you have any questions or concerns, all of the necessary information can be obtained at the Pfizer MAINTAIN website, where you can also download an application and learn more about the program, including eligibility requirements. Applications typically take 2-3 weeks to process, after which qualified patients will receive a 90-day supply of the medication in the mail. Refills will then be available for up to one year and can also be ordered by phone.