Thompson ‘Praises’ GSK Rx Drug Discount Program
HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson yesterday "praised" GlaxoSmithKline's plan to create a prescription drug discount card for low-income Medicare beneficiaries but said that the Bush administration will continue efforts to create its own discount program, the AP/Bergen Record reports (McQueen, AP/Bergen Record, 10/4). Under the GSK program, set to begin Jan. 1, all Medicare beneficiaries 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. GSK said that approximately 11 million people could qualify for the program. In September, a federal judge blocked the launch of a similar discount drug card program proposed by the Bush administration, ruling that the White House lacked the authority to promote the cards "without congressional approval." Under the Bush plan, pharmacy benefit managers would negotiate discounts with drug manufacturers and pharmacies and then sell cards to Medicare beneficiaries for up to $25, allowing them to purchase pharmaceuticals at a 15% to 20% discount (California Healthline, 10/3). Thompson said, "The president is committed to adding a drug benefit to Medicare. To him and to all of us, prescription drug coverage is non-negotiable. But we have to look for other ways for immediate help to our seniors." Representatives for Thompson said that he supports efforts by "private ... companies to lower prescription drug costs for seniors," not only GlaxoSmithKline.
Opponents of the program say there is no difference between the GlaxoSmithKline discount cards and those proposed by the Bush administration. Larry Kocot, a lobbyist for the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, said that "pharmacies will still bear the burden of reducing drug prices" under the GSK program. He added, "This is nothing more than a brand-name drug promotion for expensive products. This is nothing but illusory promise and false hope for seniors." However, Mary Rhyne, a spokesperson for GlaxoSmithKline, said, "The difference is we are putting money into the program" (AP/Bergen Record, 10/4).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.