National Association of Chain Drug Stores to Offer Pharmacy Discount Card for Low-Income Seniors
The National Association of Chain Drug Stores plans to announce a program today to create a new prescription drug discount card for low-income seniors that would link discount plans offered by drug makers, the New York Times reports. Under the proposed system, drug companies -- four of which have already introduced discount programs -- would continue to design their own savings plans, but eligible Medicare beneficiaries would be able to fill out one common application administered by the NACDS and would be able to carry a single card to present to pharmacies. NACDS President Craig Fuller said that no drug maker has agreed to participate so far, but that many have expressed interest (Petersen, New York Times, 3/11). In recent months, Pfizer and Eli Lilly have unveiled cards allowing low-income Medicare beneficiaries to purchase a 30-day supply of most medication for $15 and $12, respectively, while GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis have created cards that provide 30% to 40% discounts. "I think they have a great concept so long as we don't have seniors going in with 10 or 12 cards and trying to sort them out," Fuller said (Lueck, Wall Street Journal, 3/11). Both Novartis Chair Dr. Daniel Vasella and Pfizer spokesperson Andrew McCormick expressed interest in the NACDS program but said their companies would have to be mindful of antitrust laws preventing drug makers from working together on prices or discounts. "If the legal and administrative issues can be worked out, we'd support the idea of one convenient card," McCormick said. Fuller said that he hoped seniors could begin applying for the NACDS program -- to be called PharmacyCareOneCard -- in April. The card would be administered by Argus Health Systems, the claims processing company that handles Pfizer's and Lilly's programs. Individual pharmacies would decide if they wanted to participate in the program, Fuller said.
The NACDS proposal "appears in part to be aimed at staving off" President Bush's proposed prescription drug discount plan for Medicare beneficiaries, the Times reports. The association has "bitterly opposed" the administration proposal, saying it would cut into drugstores' profits (New York Times, 3/11). The most recent version of the Bush proposal, announced last month, calls for pharmacy benefit managers to extract discounts from drugstores and drug makers and offer them to Medicare beneficiaries, who would pay a small fee to obtain a card. The NACDS and the National Community Pharmacist Association last summer successfully blocked the administration's first attempt to implement the program after a judge ruled that the White House likely did not have the authority to devise such a plan without congressional approval (Wall Street Journal, 3/11). The original plan had called for discounts to be provided solely by pharmacies (California Healthline, 3/1). The pharmacist groups could still return to court to attempt to block Bush's plan. Chain drugstores and pharmacies, such as CVS and Rite-Aid, have "long complained that PBMs tend to drive prescription-drug sales to mail-order companies and away from their businesses" (Wall Street Journal, 3/11).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.