Prescription discount cards may not mean big savings

Prescription discount cards may not mean big savings

PETAL, MS (WDAM) - People in the Pine Belt are receiving unsolicited cards in the mail that promise users up to a 75 percent savings on prescriptions, but local pharmacists say that isn't realistic.

"They're basically useless at a pharmacy," said Kim Rogers, pharmacist and owner of Rogers Family Pharmacy in Petal. "I particularly will not accept those cards because they're gimmicks. They don't save the patient any money, and there are some of them on the back end that actually charge me a couple of dollars for the privilege of filling the prescription. So I just refuse to accept them."

According to the Mississippi Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division, any mail sent without a return address label, as these cards were, is a red flag. The division also said anything sent in the mail by a company without the consumer initiating contact would be questionable.

"It's a way for a people to make money because of the fact that they gather data that they're able to sell to the drug companies," Rogers said. "Your name, address, stuff like that because that's all transmitted. It's also a way they can charge us. They'll send us a bill. I got a bill in the mail recently from a company, and I'm like, 'when did I sign this contract allowing this?' Of course, they've never presented me with a contract showing me I signed it, so they just utilize all the pharmacies that list them. So we just don't fool with those type of cards."

Logistically, Rogers said it isn't possible for a card to save patients that much money on prescriptions.

"You're not going to save 75 percent, especially on brand name products," Rogers said. "If you have a brand name product that costs you $100, there's no way in the world that card's going to lower it down to $25. It's not going to lower it $75. You might save a dollar or two here and there, but most of these cards are designed to either steer a patient to certain drugstores or it's an information gathering thing for the company that issues the card. They sell the information to the drug manufacturers, and they get a little bit of money from the drug manufacturers for that computerized information."

Aside from not saving you money, Rogers said it could actually cost patients more on generic medicines.

"In most cases, that's going to cost," Rogers said. "The generic price is going to come out higher on this card than what the pharmacy is normally charging, and definitely on brand name price, you're just not going to save 75 percent. Most independent drugstores like myself try to base our price on generics based on what we're actually paying for the generic, whereas some of the other pharmacy outfits will base their prices based on a percentage of the brand name. When you're not paying that much for a generic, we just price it up, mark it up accordingly. Usually when we run these cards, something that I may be charging the patient $20 for, when I run these cards, just to see what they do, they end up charging the patient $30-$40. And I'm like 'this is useless.'"

If you have any kind of insurance, you can't use these cards.

"If you have private insurance, this card's useless to you," he said." We have to charge whatever your copay is that we've contracted. If it's $10 for a generic or $25 for a brand, we have to charge that. If you're on Medicare or Medicaid, this card's useless. It can't be used in conjunction with a federal program. 15 percent of our patients now are cash customers, so theoretically, 15 percent of people could use these cards."

Rogers said the bottom line is savings cards are a way for companies to make money off of patients and pharmacies.

"The average prescription in the United States is $58-$59, so people what to save money," Rogers said. "You see this thing saying 75 percent savings. Well, like I say, if you have any type of insurance, you can't use this card in conjunction with any insurance, so there's not very many patients who are going to receive any real benefit from this. It's mainly beneficial to companies that ate issuing the cards because they can utilize it to make a little bit of money."