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Scam Watch

The scam: Free medicine!

How it works: Websites and telemarketers offer to help low-income people with no health insurance obtain free prescription medications from drug companies. All it takes is a fee, usually about $200, to enroll.

The reality: Many pharmaceutical companies have limited programs that offer free or low-cost medications to the disadvantaged. But there is no fee to apply for the assistance. In fact, a drug company trade group has established a website, www.helpingpatients.org, that gives free information about the programs.

The charges: The Federal Trade Commission filed deceptive claims charges against the website freemedicine.com. Operators of the site settled the matter earlier this year without admitting wrongdoing. They agreed to a $500,000 judgment and promised to provide clear disclosures about the website’s services. It also has added the line, “You can access these programs directly,” in small print, to the bottom of its home page.

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Consumer advice: The FTC has posted an alert on this matter at www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/alerts/rxdrugsalrt.shtm.

-- David Colker


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