Together Rx, pharmacy care alliance begin national discount card rollout – Chain Pharmacy

Together Rx, pharmacy care alliance begin national discount card rollout – Chain Pharmacy – Brief Article

James Frederick

CLEVELAND — The Together Rx drug savings program officially got under way in recent weeks with high-profile enrollment events in Birmingham, Ala., and Cleveland aimed at signing up uninsured seniors. Upcoming promotional events are slated for Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla., Memphis, Tenn., and Phoenix in coming weeks as part of a five-city national rollout of the integrated discount card program.

In formation of a partnership with local drug retailers and the Pharmacy Care Alliance, created in March by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores to educate seniors about drug discount programs, Together Rx staged its first major sign-up event in Birmingham in mid-August. That was followed by Senior Celebration Day at the Cleveland Zoo Sept. 6, marking the launch of a nationwide educational effort.

In Cleveland, pharmacists from Rite Aid and Tops Markets, along with syndicated health care columnist and pharmacist Suzy Cohen, were on hand to answer questions. But, as in Birmingham, a primary focus of the event was to enroll hundreds of seniors in the discount card program.

The Together Rx program was developed by seven leading drug makers as a way to pool their individual discount card offerings for seniors under a single, simple-to-use umbrella program. Tog ether Rx is being administered by McKesson Corp., which will adjudicate claims, distribute brochures and enrollment materials, enroll participants, issue cards and process claims for participating pharmacies.

The effort gained a valuable ally in early August when the Pharmacy Care Alliance announced its support. After mer in its own, newly developed PharmacyCareOneCard with the Together Rx program, the alliance also joined in the five-city tour to help promote the concept.

Under the program, seniors with incomes up to the $28,000 mark, or $38,000 for couples, can sign up for savings of 20 percent to 40 percent on more than 150 medicines at participating pharmacies.

“It has been clear from the beginning that Together Rx and the Pharmacy Care Alliance share the common goal of helping lower-income seniors to get significant savings on medication,” said NACDS president and chief executive officer Craig Fuller, who chairs the alliance.

“From the start, we recognized the value of working with a variety of organizations, especially America’s neighborhood pharmacies, in our effort to reach eligible seniors,” added Robert Ingram, chief operating officer and head of pharmaceutical operations for GlaxoSmithKline, a Together Rx participating company. “This collaboration will help extend our reach to enroll those eligible for the Together Rx program.”

The program appears to be having little difficulty generating interest among t e nation s low-income seniors as they await long-term relief from prescription drug sticker shock. While Congress continues to grapple with the sticky issue of Medicare drug benefits, Together Rx and the Pharmacy Care Alliance are winning converts with promises of meaningful cost savings on many of the most widely prescribed medicines.

The message appears to be getting through. According to Maggie Essman, a spokeswoman for McKesson, 221,336 eligible seniors had been enrolled in the program as of Sept. 1, and McKesson had processed 104,000 claims. She said the Birmingham health expo drew 2,527 interested seniors, 1,572 of who signed up for a Together Rx card.

“That was the first handson enrollment event,” Essman said.

The founding members of Together Rx, are Abbott Laboratories, AstraZeneca, Aventis, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Glaxo-SmithKline, Johnson & Johnson and Novartis.

High number of beneficiaries

The consortium estimates that 8 million to 11 million low-income seniors could benefit from the discounts. Enrollment forms and information are available through participating pharmacies, as well as in physicians’ offices. Those who are interested also may request applications by calling (800) 865-7211 or visiting the Together Rx Web site at www.Together-Rx.com.

Meanwhile, pharmacy leaders are vowing to continue their push for a comprehensive drug benefit fair to both seniors and pharmacy.

“There are proposals in Congress that serve the senior, recognize the critical role in health care played by community pharmacy and establish a fair, transparent and level playing field in the administration of a pharmacy benefit,” said Mark Griffin, NACDS chairman and president of Lewis Drug. He expressed the hope that the Senate “will work more closely with us in community pharmacy to provide a pharmacy benefit that recognizes the importance of providing not just a discount, quality health care.”

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