Discounts on prescription drugs are available through a program announced today by the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.
Any Pennsylvania resident can go to area CVS, Acme, Target, Kmart and Giant pharmacies and others to pick up a free member card, issued through www.PennsylvaniaDrugCard.com.
Free cards can be downloaded from the Web site.
Chamber chief executive officer Mark Schweiker said the program could provide savings to state residents who are self-employed or whose insurance does not cover drug benefits or includes high deductibles.
"This is a free discount program with no restriction for age or income," said Thomas J. Shaw, Pennsylvania program director. The company, with offices in Malvern, offers discounts on pet medicine.
A similar program, New Jersey Drug Card (www.newjerseydrugcard.com), was launched earlier this year.
Both are connected to United Networks of America, a holding company that includes its subsidiary UNARx, of Baton Rouge, La. UNARx has been introducing the drug discount cards state by state.
UNARx works with Restat Corp., a large Wisconsin company that negotiates volume discounts with pharmaceutical companies and pharmacies. Shaw said a typical discount was about 30 percent.
Pharmacies have an incentive to provide discounts, United Networks president Ryan Jumonville said.
"Pharmacies take a hit on the discount so they can get the traffic," he said.
Also, customers are increasingly filling their prescriptions through mail-order suppliers either in the United States or in Canada, where drugs are cheaper, he said.
Discount drug programs abound. Some have membership fees, some only cover certain drugs, and some are restricted to low-income people.
Philadelphia's Chamber of Commerce is receiving fees for promoting the cards, spokeswoman Mary Flannery said. She said she did not know the complete arrangements.
Discount cards may not lead to the lowest prices, so shopping is worthwhile.
For example, a 60-dose dispenser of Advair, an asthma medicine, sells for $264 using the Pennsylvania Drug Card at the Acme in Roxborough, but can be purchased for $161.14 through Costco.com. Lipitor, a cholesterol-lowering drug, costs about $89 monthly with the Pennsylvania Drug Card and $85.99 through Drugstore.com, although delivery may be extra.