Pharmacy Discount Card Programs Only Offer Seniors ‘Modest Assist’
Pharmacy discount card programs offered by GlaxoSmithKline PLC and Novartis AG will only provide a "modest assist" for seniors, Francesca Lunzer Kritz writes in a Washington Post consumer news report. Although the plans would offer seniors a 25% to 40% discount on the retail price of prescription drugs manufactured by the companies, which "could cover some groceries and a few heating bills," Kritz writes that according to a report issued by the consumer advocacy group Families USA, the programs may only cover a few of the drugs that seniors commonly use. She adds that GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis manufacture none of the six "most expensive" drugs -- Celebrex, Zocor, Lipitor, Prilosec, Prevacid and Plavix -- of the 50 that the Families USA report identified as "commonly used by seniors." In addition, Kritz writes that multiple discount cards from different drug companies would force seniors to "know their various cards' limitations" and could make "filling a senior prescription ... confusing." Still, she adds that the programs offer seniors a "better deal" than discounts provided by mail order pharmacies. Kritz also points out that pharmacies, although "basically lukewarm" about discount card programs, have "been charmed a bit by Novartis' decision to have consumers sign up at drugstores and to offer pharmacies a $5 payment for every senior they bring in." HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson has also expressed "delight" over discount card plans offered by drug companies, Kritz writes. The federal government plans to launch a separate discount card program for Medicare beneficiaries, but "if enough companies offer cards, the government might reconsider," Kritz concludes (Kritz, Washington Post, 11/20).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.