pfizer launches share card for seniors
Although Pfizer's new pharmacy discount program, Share Card, has drawn praise from retail pharmacy associations, the groups remain concerned about the recent proliferation of prescription card programs from drug manufacturers.
The Share Card, offered under the banner of Pfizer for Living, will enable low-income Americans to buy a 30-day supply of any Pfizer prescription medicine they need for a flat fee of $15. According to Pfizer, to be eligible for the card, patients must be "65 years of age or older or otherwise a Medicare enrollee" and have individual "reported gross income below $18,000 or joint reported gross income below $24,000" and "have no other prescription coverage." There is no membership or enrollment fee.
The Share Card, which CVS, Eckerd, and Wal-Mart have agreed to accept, can be used at participating pharmacies starting March 1. The card enables patients to purchase all Pfizer drugs, as well as two co-promoted drugsUCB Pharma's antihistamine Zyrtec and Eisai Co.'s Aricept for dementia of mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. The arthritis drug Celebrex, comarketed with Pharmacia, is not currently covered. Patients are also being offered access to a phone help line, manned by live operators.
Commenting on Pfizer's new program, Bruce Roberts, R.Ph., executive v.p., National Community Pharmacists Association, said, "We concur with Pfizer's desire to help the nation's seniors better afford their prescription medications.... However, independent community pharmacy continues to stand opposed to the manufacturer-specific card model. Manufacturer-sponsored cards continue to flood the market, creating a logistical nightmare for consumers and pharmacists alike. Seniors are often multiple-drug users, which means they must carry multiple cards and the pharmacist must take the time to match these cards to prescriptions, instead of using that time to focus on patient care. The result of this myriad of cards, all with different parameters and requirements, is likely to create confusion and disillusion among patients."
Craig Fuller, president/CEO of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, echoed Roberts' sentiments about Pfizer's good intentions but is concerned about the growing number of these cards. "We applaud the direction Pfizer is moving in because it will provide seniors with a pharmacy benefit that will significantly reduce the cost of their prescription drugs. While we remain concerned with the operational issues posed by a proliferation of card programs, Pfizer has worked with community leaders in developing the Share Card and is committed to working with us throughout program implementation."
At a press conference in New York City where the Share Card was unveiled, Pfizer chairman Hank McKinnell said, "Several studies have shown these low-income seniors are 15 times more likely to limit their prescription medicine use than are seniors at higher income levels. As a result, these Americans suffer unduly from untreated diseases and spend far too much time in hospitals and emergency rooms. We estimate that more than seven million Americans out of more than 39 million Medicare beneficiaries will qualify for the card."
McKinnell said that according to the Government Accounting Office, the average U.S retail price for a 30-day supply of a branded pharmaceutical is $69.54. Citing President Bush's "call to solve problems through public/private partnerships," he said, "the President has challenged all of us to find new ways to make our society stronger and to build a more compassionate America. Given the urgent national priorities following the Sept. 11 attacks, the President's challenge is more important than ever. In an ideal world, Medicare would already have a prescription drug benefit covering all medicines needed by the elderly in a way that allows medical innovation to flourish. But that's not the case. Medicare has to be modernized. Right now the nation may not have the consensus or the budget to succeed in Medicare reform. Sept. 11 put unexpected pressures on the budget. New solutions, even interim ones, must be found. The Share Card is a bridging step as America deals with its priorities and awaits Medicare modernization."
Commenting on CVS' participation in the program, Thomas Ryan, CVS chairman/president/CEO, who was at the conference, said, "Low-income seniors too often suffer from lack of access to medications to stay healthy. With the Share Card, these Americans will now have a true pharmacy health benefit program. "
In a separate development, Walgreen Co. said it plans to accept the Glaxo Orange Card and Novartis Care Card. Orange Card holders will be eligible for discounts on Glaxo products such as Flonase and Wellbutrin-SR. Novartis products that will be discounted include Lescol and Diovan.
For more information about the Pfizer Share Card program, call 1- (800) 717-6005 or visit www.pfizerforliving.com .
Sandra Levy. Now it's Pfizer's turn to debut its discount card program. Drug Topics 2002;3:18.