Efficacy of Rx Discount Cards Not Clear, NPR Reports
NPR's "Morning Edition" today reports on the "recent boom" in the number of drug companies offering seniors prescription drug discount cards. For example, Pfizer and Eli Lilly have unveiled cards allowing low-income Medicare beneficiaries to purchase a 30-day supply of most medications for $15 and $12, respectively, while GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis have created cards that provide 30% to 40% discounts. It is "not clear how effective" the cards will be in helping seniors, NPR reports. Families USA Executive Director Ron Pollack said, "I think the last thing that America's seniors need is a billfold full of cards, one card per company. I think this has more to do with public relations by the drug companies that are under attack for their fast-rising costs and prices than about real relief for America's seniors." Tricia Neuman, a vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, who recently testified before the Senate Finance Committee on prescription drug discount cards, added, "For a consumer who is trying to get the best deal on their prescription drugs, using these discount cards can really be like operating in the wild, wild west." The full segment is available at http://search.npr.org/cf/cmn/cmnpd01fm.cfm?PrgDate=04/05/2002&PrgID=3 (Shapiro, "Morning Edition," NPR, 4/5).
"Marketplace" today follows a group of Maine seniors who traveled to Canada, where prescription drugs can be purchased at approximately half what they cost in the United States. Through the Maine Rx Express program, a project of the Maine Citizen Leadership Fund, 30 seniors traveled seven hours by bus to the Calais, Maine, office of Dr. Laurie Churchill, a physician licenced to write prescriptions in the United States and Canada. Churchill reviews prescriptions and medical histories supplied by the seniors' regular physicians and then faxes medication requests to a Canadian pharmacy in nearby St. Stephen, New Brunswick. Maine's Council of Senior Citizens, which is lobbying for prescription drug pricing laws, estimates that each busload of seniors saves an average of $17,000 ("Marketplace," MPR, 4/5).