By Emily Bregel
One more way for Tennesseans to save money on their prescription drugs has hit the market.
The Tennessee Drug Card program can provide discounts from 10 percent to 75 percent on prescription drugs, and nearly everyone can use it, said program director Harry E. Sayle, based in Memphis.
"It's designed to be as simple as possible for people to access and use," he said. "There's really not a lot of bells and whistles."
The vast majority of prescription medications -- brand-name and generic -- written by a doctor are covered in the program, other than new drugs just hitting the market, Mr. Sayle said.
The drug card program, introduced in Tennessee about three months ago, is offered in at least 15 states, he said. About 900 pharmacies in Tennessee participate, including CVS, Walgreens, Target, Publix and Kroger.
The Internet-based drug card program originally was limited to customers who printed out the card from the company's Internet site tennesseedrugcard.com, but now Bi-Lo will accept the card if a customer only mentions the program, said Ryan Jumonville, president and chief executive officer of United Networks of America, the company that launched the program.
United Networks of America, a discount benefits company that offers a number of managed-care products, has partnered with nonprofit Health Access America to raise awareness about the card, Mr. Jumonville said. Pharmaceutical companies and pharmacies fund the program, he said.
Health Access America is a project of Health Leadership Council, a Washington, D.C.-based coalition of chief executives in the health care field, regional coordinator Susan Everett said.
Many pharmacies are looking for ways to help consumers get discounts on their prescriptions, she said.
"I think that pharmacies are really very keen on anything that can help a patient not have to make the choice between buying groceries and buying drugs," she said.
CVS spokesman Mike DeAngelis said in an e-mail that CVS accepts a number of drug cards, including the Tennessee Drug Card, the TogetherRx card and a National Association of Counties card. CVS also has its own discount drug card for customers ages 50 and over who have no health insurance, he said.
Maurice Kopp, regional pharmacy manager for Bi-Lo, said the Tennessee Drug Card program seems to have been successful so far.
"It saves the customer a little money over our usual price. For us, it's a benefit because we get more people in our stores," he said.
The Tennessee Drug Card can help young people who are not receiving employer benefits and elderly people whose prescriptions needs are not being met by Medicare, Ms. Everett said.
"Any kind of discount they can get when they go to the pharmacy is a step in the right direction," she said.
Hamilton County began offering a prescription drug program in February that provides about a 22 percent discount to county residents on drugs not covered by insurance, Hamilton County spokesman Mike Dunne said in an e-mail message.
The county drug card, introduced in February through a membership with the National Association of Counties, has saved county residents more than $666,800, Mr. Dunne said.
The cards are available at more than 100 sites in Hamilton County including participating pharmacies such as Wal-Mart, Bi-Lo and CVS, county libraries and the local health department. For more information, call (877) 321-2652.
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