Drug Maker Eli Lilly Unveils New Pharmacy Discount Card for Medicare Beneficiaries
As expected, Eli Lilly yesterday unveiled a prescription drug discount card that will allow low-income seniors to obtain 30-day supplies of medication for $12, the New York Times reports. Company officials, announcing the "LillyAnswers" program in Washington, D.C., alongside HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, described it as a stopgap measure for the seniors most in need of help with their drug costs (Petersen, New York Times, 3/6). "We hope and expect that Congress will enact federal legislation that provides broad prescription drug coverage to all seniors," CEO Sidney Taurel said, adding, "In the meantime, we decided to act now in order to provide this assistance to individuals in need" (Powell, Boston Herald, 3/6). To qualify for the program, people must be on Medicare, over 65, have annual incomes below $18,000 for an individual or $24,000 for a household and must not be eligible for any private or public prescription drug coverage plan (New York Times, 3/6). Seniors can apply by calling 1-877-RX-Lilly; participating pharmacies will begin accepting the card on April 1 (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 3/5). Lilly spokesperson Ed West said that about 5 million Medicare beneficiaries would qualify for the program, with enrollees receiving an average discount of about $52 per monthly prescription (Reuters/Los Angeles Times, 3/6). Prozac users, for instance, would save $856 off the $1,000 yearly cost of the anti-depressant drug through LillyAnswers (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 3/5).
Lilly becomes the fourth drug maker to offer its own discount card in recent months. Its $12 price is lower than Pfizer's $15, while the two cards have the same income limits (Reuters/Los Angeles Times, 3/6). GlaxoSmithKline's and Novartis' cards offer smaller savings on drug costs -- discounts of 25% or more -- but their income eligibility levels are higher -- $26,000 for individuals and $34,000 for couples. The discount programs come as Congress debates adding a prescription drug benefit to Medicare. Drug makers say the cards will offer low-income seniors meaningful relief until such a benefit is passed, but many consumer advocates dismiss the programs as an industry effort to gain favorable publicity while helping only very few seniors (Appleby, USA Today, 3/6).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.