Published Online: Sunday, January 1, 2006

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigators have slammed the door on a Louisville, Ky-based company that lured lowincome consumers with no insurance into spending $199 with false claims that they would receive "free prescription medication."

In a complaint alleging fraudulent activity by MyFreeMedicine.com, the FTC charged that the company targets "low-income consumers who spend more than $100 a month for medications" and may "qualify to receive free prescription medicine through one or more of the many patient assistance programs (PAPs) operated by pharmaceutical companies." The company's television and radio ads urge consumers who are not covered by insurance to call a toll-free number to find out if they are "eligible" to receive free prescription medications.

Consumers who responded to the ads were charged $199.95 for a 6-month enrollment and were provided with PAP application forms that must be submitted to the pharmaceutical companies. According to the FTC, many who paid this fee later learned that they were not eligible to receive their prescription medications for free from a PAP, or that their prescriptions were not available from a PAP.

In response to the FTC complaint, a US District Court froze the firm's assets and ordered the company to halt its deceptive marketing practices.

Industry leaders applauded the FTC's action and condemned the company for profiteering at the expense of low income patients. "These programs are meant to help the uninsured, and people in need, better afford their prescription medicines," a spokesman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America said. "To charge people looking for help abuses the spirit of giving and assistance that drives these programs, and it is wrong."

The FTC has published a consumer alert, "No Need to Pay for Information on Free (or Low-Cost) Rx Drugs," that is available at the commission's Web site, www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/alerts/rxdrugsalrt.pdf.

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