Monday, Aug. 13, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Drug discount cards have been proliferating throughout the country as workers have lost their jobs and health insurance benefits during the Great Recession.
Most of the cards are free to people with or without health insurance, and they allow sizable discounts for prescription drugs. People with insurance can get discounts on drugs their policies won’t cover, including so-called “social” prescriptions for medications such as Viagra and birth control pills.
Discount cards litter the Internet, but now only one will be endorsed by Clark County.
After a yearlong winnowing and sifting process to find the right company to back, the Clark County Commission voted last week to endorse the ProAct discount card. ProAct is a wholly owned subsidiary of New York-based Kinney Drugs, a 100-year-old business that operates a chain of pharmacies.
Since producing a discount drug card in 2005, ProAct is approaching $100 million in savings on prescription drugs, said Erison Rodriguez, the ProAct account representative who addressed commissioners.
Cumulatively, he said people in counties participating in the program have experienced drug savings of 51 percent. More specifically, brand-name drug savings equal 10 to 20 percent; generic drug savings are between 20 and 70 percent.
ProAct has member pharmacies, such as Walgreens and CVS, and makes money by collecting a fee per transaction, said David Warner, ProAct president. Participating pharmacies benefit by being part of the program because they are able to sell drugs they wouldn’t be able to sell without the card.
Rodriguez gave an example: If someone wants a drug not covered by insurance and it costs $100, the pharmacy may lose the sale. But if a discount brings the drug’s price to $50, the customer might buy it, then have money left over to buy something else in the store. The pharmacy’s profit margin will be less, Rodriguez added, but at least it will be getting something instead of nothing.
“The most effective way to determine if you would use the card is to ask yourself: Are you paying full cash price for any necessary drug? If the answer is yes, then you can use the card,” he said.
The county’s endorsement comes with no expense to taxpayers. Rodriguez said the next step would be to roll out the program by informing the public. ProAct, he said, will mail the cards to every household in the county. Cards also will be distributed through participating pharmacies and county agencies.
ProAct also is in talks to potentially distribute the cards in Nevada’s other counties.
Rodriguez said ProAct had the ability to distribute the cards without the blessing of government officials but the endorsement helps them with visibility and shows a government agency stands by them.
In the first month of use in the suburban St. Louis area of St. Clair County, Ill., cards saved residents $33,000 on about 1,200 prescriptions, ProAct said. Cardholders in St. Lawrence County in northern New York, where the card began in 2005, have saved $7.2 million through February 2012, the company said.