AmeriCares provided a record quantity of respiratory medicines in May to help low-income and uninsured patients across the United States breathe easier during National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month.

Pharmaceutical companies donated more than $2.4 million in prescription medicines -- enough to fill about 25,000 prescriptions -- for the effort.

The donated products include both maintenance medications, such as inhaled steroids, as well as rescue medications for patients experiencing asthma attacks or difficulty breathing. Sunovion Pharmaceuticals Inc. and AstraZeneca are the major sponsors, with both companies donating truckloads of medications for free clinics and community health centers nationwide. Sunovion donated enough quick-relief medicines that are used to treat acute asthma attacks for approximately 22,000 children and adults suffering from asthma.

AstraZeneca donated enough respiratory therapies to provide preventive treatment for more than 3,000 children and adults with asthma. AmeriCares is making the medicines available to hundreds of free clinics and community health centers serving low-income and uninsured patients through its U.S. Medical Assistance Program. Safety net partners select the products they want from an online ordering system, and AmeriCares delivers them free of charge.

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"These are some of the most frequently prescribed respiratory medicines, and some of the most difficult for low-income patients to obtain," said Leslie McGuire, AmeriCares director of U.S. programs. "Uninsured and underinsured patients can receive treatment in safety net clinics and health centers, but without donated medicines many would leave with scripts in hand they can't afford to fill. Thanks to AstraZeneca and Sunovion, we are helping patients avoid unnecessary emergency room visits and hospitalizations."

AmeriCares made a special appeal to pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors to donate respiratory medications in May in recognition of National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 18 million adults and 7 million children in the United States suffer from asthma and struggle with coughing, wheezing and breathlessness -- symptoms that can be triggered or exacerbated by seasonal allergies.

"Sunovion is very pleased to partner with AmeriCares to help our asthma medicines get to those patients most in need," said Rick Russell, executive vice president and chief commercial officer of Sunovion. "We hope this donation will provide strong relief to many struggling to breathe."

So far this year, AmeriCares U.S. Medical Assistance Program has provided more than $50 million worth of donated medicines to clinics and health centers serving the uninsured and underinsured. The program is rapidly expanding, adding safety net partners every week.

"Since AstraZeneca began collaborating with AmeriCares in 2005, we have been able to provide important medications to the people that need them most and help to improve the lives of people with little or no access to basic health care," said Jennifer McGovern, director, patient assistance programs, AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP.

In addition to providing medicines to clinics across the country, AmeriCares has patient assistance programs that provide patients in the U.S. with free prescription medicines and operates free clinics serving the uninsured in its home state of Connecticut. The organization's Emergency Response Team also responds to tornadoes, hurricanes and other disasters in the U.S. with medical aid and relief supplies.