Half a Million Inhalers To Be Distributed To Uninsured Asthma Patients

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Asthma Inhalers

Community health centers and clinics across the country will be distributing asthma inhalers free of charge to their uninsured and underserved asthma patients beginning this week.

Direct Relief International has partnered with The Children's Health Fund, National Association of Community Health Centers and National Association of Free Clinics to distribute 500,000 environmentally-friendly inhalers to more than 850 community health centers and free clinics in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

"This is a great opportunity for us to help those who need help the most. We're proud to be part of a ground-breaking initiative that provides additional resources for a network of providers that serves as one of the nation's last safety nets for low-income families," said Malvise Scott, Vice President, Programs and Planning, National Association of Community Health Centers.

The new partnership, called the "2007 ASPIRE Campaign," is the result of a generous donation of 500,000 units of PROVENTIL(R) HFA, an environmentally- friendly albuterol inhaler, by Schering-Plough.

Due to a federally-mandated ban on chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), asthma patients who use albuterol CFC inhalers must switch to an environmentally- friendly albuterol inhaler by December 31, 2008. The ASPIRE Campaign will make it easier for low-income patients enrolled in participating clinics to make the transition to the HFA inhalers sooner.

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"With this government mandate, asthma patients will find themselves having to get a new prescription for an albuterol inhaler that may look, feel, and taste different and for some patients may cost more," said Arturo Brito, Chief Medical Officer of The Children's Health Fund. "We're grateful to Schering- Plough for helping us prepare children and families in need by providing a free Proventil HFA inhaler as well as critical information about their patient assistance program to ease the transition."

Patients will receive educational materials on the change in albuterol inhalers and information on the patient assistance program offered by the donating pharmaceutical company, Schering-Plough.

"Access to medicines is always a challenge for uninsured and underserved patients," said Thomas Tighe, President and CEO of Direct Relief International, a medical relief organization. "That's why we are so pleased to join with our nonprofit organization colleagues who run safety-net clinics and with Schering-Plough, which has demonstrated true corporate leadership by recognizing and addressing a tough situation for low-income asthma patients."

A total of 858 health clinics, representing all 50 states and Puerto Rico, requested a donation of 471,873 units of the environmentally-friendly inhaler based on the needs of their underserved patient population. Schering-Plough's donation of 500,000 of their environmentally-friendly inhalers makes it possible to grant all of these requests.

Patients currently using an albuterol inhaler containing a CFC propellant should talk to their healthcare provider about environmentally-friendly alternatives. By the end of 2008, all albuterol inhalers with CFCs will be phased out. Asthma patients will need a prescription from their doctor to get an HFA-containing albuterol inhaler.

"This represents industry thinking differently to solve a public health issue by establishing a different distribution model, a new way to make sure donations from industry reach the populations with the biggest need," said Nicole Lamoureux, Executive Director, National Association of Free Clinics.

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