updated 4/7/2009 4:46:39 PM ET 2009-04-07T20:46:39

A host of programs offer uninsured patients help getting prescription medicines for free or at a discount. Other programs offer inexpensive generic drugs, coupons for at least an initial prescription, even free antibiotics.

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Here's a sampling:

Umbrella assistance programs
Needy Meds: Offers help getting more than 4,100 medicines, plus links to discount drug card and coupon programs, thousands of free or low-cost clinics around the country, programs offering medical equipment and supplies for specific diseases. Also has a glossary of insurance and related terms, and a tool to see if you're eligible.

Partnership for Prescription Assistance: Entry point for more than 475 different programs sponsored by pharmaceutical companies, government programs, health plans and charities.

Patient Advocate Foundation: The most comprehensive patient assistance program, with far more than help getting free or discount prescriptions. Provides help paying for surgery or large copayments for medical care, child care while patients are getting treatments, even transportation to treatments. Has specialized case managers who can help with a multitude of financial health care issues.

PatientAssistance.com: Has links to more than 1,000 prescription-assistance programs, free clinics and programs that help with copayments for treatment for cancer and rare and chronic diseases.

Rx Assist: Links to state-run assistance programs and programs to help with drug copayments, a search by drug name for available help, online patient education.

Rx Hope: Offers online assistance applications, links to medical group, patient advocate and drug company sites.

State assistance programs

Disease-specific programs

Drug discount cards
Together Rx Access: Offers free cards accepted at most pharmacies, in every state and Puerto Rico, that can get you prescription discounts of 25-40 percent. Has nearly 1.9 million members, who have saved more than $82 million since it began in 2005.

— Pharmaceutical companies including Pfizer, Merck and GlaxoSmithKline offer discount cards good for their own medicines. AstraZeneca has one just for Medicare Part D recipients.

— Needy Meds offers its own discount card, as well as links to states that offer cards.

Inexpensive generics
Many major discount and pharmacy chains offer dozens, if not hundreds, of the most widely used generic medicines for as little as $4-$5 per month, or $10-$15 for a three-month supply. Some supermarket pharmacies offer similar programs. Drugs available are listed on their Web sites. Those include:

Free samples
Ask your doctor or health clinic whether they have free samples of any medicine they are prescribing for you.

Free antibiotics
Several regional supermarket chains this winter began offering antibiotics for free to draw customers into their aisles.

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