Merck to offer free drugs to U.S. seniors who reach Medicare card limit

Merck said that it would provide its drugs free to low-income seniors once they use up their $600 annual assistance allowance on drug discount cards that are in effect until the full benefit under the new Medicare reform legislation goes into effect in 2006, news sources report.

"The drug discount cards, part of the Medicare overhaul bill enacted in December, should save seniors 10 percent to 15 percent of their medication costs, according to the Bush administration," a news source says.

"Merck fully supports the new drug discount card programme and looks forward to competing to gain our medicines' inclusion in the card programmes," Merck CEO Raymond V. Gilmartin is quoted as saying.

Among the Merck drugs often used by seniors are Vioxx, Prinivil and Cozaar, for hypertension; high cholesterol drugs Zetia and Zocor; and Proscar for enlarged prostate. Last year Merck provided free medicine for over 600,000 Americans who lacked prescription drug coverage and could not afford the medicines.

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