GSK to Offer Rx Drug Discounts to Medicare Beneficiaries
Moving ahead of the federal government, GlaxoSmithKline today will announce the creation of a new discount program that will allow low-income Medicare beneficiaries who lack drug coverage to purchase most of the company's medications at discounts upwards of 25%, the New York Times reports. Under the program, to begin Jan. 1, all Medicare beneficiaries, including disabled individuals, with annual incomes at or below 300% of the federal poverty level -- $26,000 for an individual or $35,000 for a couple -- will receive discounts on all GSK medications sold outside hospitals. These drugs include Avandia for diabetes, Paxil for depression and Flovent for asthma. The company said that 11 million people could qualify for the program. Participants would pay nothing for the orange-colored card and would show it at most pharmacies to receive the discounts (Petersen/Freudenheim, New York Times, 10/3). According to David Stout, GSK's president of U.S. pharmaceutical operations, the company will provide a 25% discount on the wholesale price of the medication; and, depending on pharmacy pricing, consumers will receive 25% to 40% discounts on what they would pay otherwise (Loyd, Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/3). GSK said it is also negotiating with pharmacies to provide an additional discount (New York Times, 10/3). The program will be administered by the pharmacy-benefit manager Express Scripts Inc. (Wall Street Journal, 10/3). Starting Nov. 1, those who are eligible for the Orange Card program can pick up an application at their doctor's office or call 1-888-672-6436. Applicants will have to provide their Medicare beneficiary number and their previous federal income-tax return (Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/3).
GSK officials said they were launching the program to assist seniors who cannot afford supplemental drug coverage and do not qualify for public coverage, such as Medicaid, which does pay for prescription drugs. GSK CEO Jean- Pierre Garnier said that the program would also serve as a stopgap until Congress passes a comprehensive Medicare drug benefit. "It is a shame some patients can't get the full benefits of our drugs for economic reasons. We are trying to close the gap," he said. The Times reports that the discount program may also give GSK a competitive advantage over other pharmaceutical companies that market similar drugs. It is unclear whether other drug makers will offer similar programs -- Pfizer said it "would watch what happened" with GSK, while Bristol-Myers Squibb said it was "considering adding new discount programs to some of the more limited plans it already offered" (New York Times, 10/3). John Rother, policy director for AARP, said the Orange Card program "would have a lot more impact if other manufacturers follow suit" (Ranii, Raleigh News & Observer, 10/3).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.