DRUG DISCOUNT CARDS
PROVE INCONSISTENT AND CONFUSING
In two reports released this week, the Center for Medicare Advocacy, Inc. (CMA/The Center) details findings regarding problems with the new Medicare prescription drug discount card program. CMA calls attention to the following concerns:
on prescription drugs vary by zip code and pharmacy. While a study
conducted in Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District for Representative
Benjamin L. Cardin found that the prices available with Medicare drug cards
were significantly more expensive than the prices available from www.drugstore.com,
the Center found considerable discounts on prescription drugs in Washington,
D.C.; Willimantic, Connecticut; and Olney, Maryland - three very different
on prescription drugs vary by prescription. In a price comparison
between www.medicare.gov and www.drugstore.com,
the Center found that discounts on the ten most popular brand-name drugs
used by seniors varied from three percent to 31 percent.
cards fail to provide significant discounts on all prescription drugs.
Some drugs may even be more expensive when purchased with a
Medicare-approved drug card. For example, a price comparison between www.medicare.gov
and www.drugstore.com on July 28,
2004 revealed that both Aricept and Lipitor cost 3% more when purchased with
the Medicare drug card that offers the lowest price. Similarly, a
price comparison between www.medicare.gov
and www.drugstore.com on the same
date revealed that a month’s supply of Betaseron cost $100 more when
purchased with the Medicare drug card that offers the lowest price.
prices listed on the www.medicare.gov
website proved to be inaccurate. For example, the website advertises a
supply of Copaxone, a key multiple sclerosis drug, for $33,500 per year,
while the drug actually costs only $15,000 a year. CMS is aware of
these problems, and hopes to correct them shortly.
may not be able to discern which card will provide the most dependable low
cost for their medication before it is too late to switch cards. After
a four week survey of prices for four common MS medications, it remains
unclear for most drugs examined which card would ultimately prove the most
dependable and least expensive. Both the Center for Medicare Advocacy
and the National MS Society have contacted CMS for clarity regarding these
There is a lack of consistency or universality in the discounts offered by the cards. Drug cards may discontinue service for a week or more. The card that offers the greatest discount on prescription drugs one week may significantly raise its prices the next; this was the case with Copaxone. Further, one card was entirely unavailable for a week.
The Center for Medicare Advocacy’s findings are described in greater detail in two studies recently completed by the organization regarding the new Medicare drug discount program; Medicare Drugs Prove Inconsistent and Provide Few Discounts for Medicare Beneficiaries Trying to Reduce the Cost of the Ten Most Popular Brand-Name Drugs Used by Seniors and Medicare Drugs Prove Confusing and Inconsistent for Seniors Trying to Reduce the Cost of MS Drugs. Click on either link to access the full report in .pdf format.
For more information contact Center for Medicare Advocacy attorney Vicki Gottlich at (202) 293-5760 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
MS SOCIETY HINTS FOR CMS DRUG CARD WEBSITE
consultation with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the
National Multiple Sclerosis Society developed instructions to assist people who
are researching MS drugs. The
Center for Medicare Advocacy is working with the MS Society to enhance
understanding about this and other Medicare coverage issues for people with
The MS Society’s instructions for using the CMS
website may be found at http://www.nationalmssociety.org/discount_cards.asp.