Some Prescription Drug Service Cos. Charge for Services

Online companies offer services, but what price is right?

Oct. 10, 2008 — -- More than 45 million Americans do not have prescription drug insurance. And some have turned to online prescription drug service companies that offer help getting prescription drugs inexpensively in exchange for a fee.

What some of these companies often do not advertise, however, is that people can sometimes get their much-needed prescription drugs for little or no money straight from the drug companies or through other free services.

Andrea Melnick, 30, found that out the hard way -- after paying hundreds to an online company.

Five years ago, Melnick was in good health and had just given birth to a boy when suddenly she began passing out. Doctors told her that her seizures were caused by epilepsy.

"I couldn't drive. I wasn't supposed to be left alone with my son. And I wasn't -- I couldn't cook while I was home by myself. I couldn't shower while I was home by myself in case I had one," she told "Good Morning America."

Adding to her woes, Andrea's husband left her, taking her drug insurance with him. Without insurance, Andrea was left to try and get the pricey epilepsy medications, which cost up to $800 a month, on her own.

Andrea looked for help online and found a company called Select Care Benefits Network.

"It sounded perfect," she said. "It says on their Web site you can get your drugs cheaper." She said the company offered to get all her drugs for just $30 a month.

Adrea paid the company a total of $365, but over the next 10 months, she received only one voucher for a two-month supply of one of her drugs.

"They kept telling me that everything was approved, and it was coming, and still, every day, nothing," she said. "It hurt. It hurt real bad. Because I don't have that kind of money."

According to the Better Business Bureau, when she complained, Andrea became only one of 111 people who filed complaints against the company.

Brandon Todd, president of Select Care Benefits Network, told "Good Morning America" that he was "aware" of the complaints, but claimed the company completed its services.

"We've reached out to those people," he said. "First of all, let me just say it breaks my heart every time I hear anyone whose membership does not work out."

Andrea eventually did receive a partial refund from Select Care Benefits Network, but only after she learned she could be getting her medications for free directly from the drug company or through organizations such as Partnership for Prescription Assistance, which offers free assistance to get needed drugs for little or no money.

Ken Johnson, senior vice president of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and one of the founders of the Partnership for Prescription Assistance, told "Good Morning America" that the partnership was created to help simplify the process of getting prescription drugs inexpensively.

"What we try to do is to take the mystery out of finding help by creating a single point of access to all of these programs," he said. "So instead of you having to contact 25 or 30 different companies, all you have to do is call our toll-free number."

According to Todd, charging customers for a service similar to the one offered for free by Partnership for Prescription America is justified by the depth of work the company does for its customers.

"We offer a different level of services than they do," he said. "We offer the Cadillac of patient advocacy services, where they send you in the right direction. The processes are complicated. I mean, you can file your taxes on your own as well, but many people hire an accountant to do it. Why? They want it done right."

But Johnson called Select Care Benefits Network's practices "outrageous."

"They charge a fee for a service, for a service that we provide for free," he said. "Worst of all, the people that are being hurt are the ones that can least afford it."

Andrea said she lost more than $7,000 by paying for her own medication while waiting on Select Care Benefits Network.

Now, she gets her medication directly from the drug company for free, but fears many people may be paying companies such as Select Care Benefits Network when they might not need to be.

"I'm sure there's a lot of people that don't realize they can do it on their own," she said. "And they're paying this company. Who knows how much this company is making."

To see how you can get your prescription medication for the best price, check out the Partnership for Prescription Assistance Web site.

Top Stories

Top Stories

Top Stories

Top Stories

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events