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I've been posting diaries here since 2004 - I don't know how to title this so it doesn't look like spam. It isn't spam - trust me.

Friday I posted a diary about a little known program in WA and OR that can save you up to 75% on the price of prescription drugs. It turns out there is a nationally available program that, while not as good as what WA and OR offer, can still save you about 33% in some cases. You can check online to see if it's worth it for you, with no signup or having to provide personal information.

The program is called FamilyWize.

Disclaimer: I have no experience with this program - I found it while searching for newspaper articles on the WA program. If someone has experience with it, please post a comment. Note, for example, that the program description - excerpt and link below - doesn't even state that the program is non-profit. There may also be similar and possibly better programs in your state - check around.

The program can be found here. They say:

The goal of the FamilyWize® Community Service Partnership, Inc is to reduce the cost of prescription medicine for children, families and individuals by $1 billion by the end of 2015. We believe that stronger, healthier and happier people make healthier and better communities.

We deliver these savings by distributing free prescription drug discount cards. These pharmacy discount cards are provided free of charge both to the organizations and agencies helping to distribute the drug cards and to the people who receive the cards. All funding for the FamilyWize prescription card program is provided by part of the dispensing fee that is included in the cost of medicines when a FamilyWize card is used to save you money, and by in-kind donations and reduced costs from the program sponsors.

The FamilyWize Community Service Partnership was established in 2005 by Dan and Susan Barnes to reduce the cost of prescriptions for people who live and work in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. Distribution of these cards was later coordinated by the local United Way. United Ways in other communities quickly heard about the program and started asking if they could get cards for their communities. Sadly, many families in the United States need a FamilyWize card, either because they have no health insurance or they have to buy medicine that is not covered by their insurance, Medicaid or Medicare plans.

More than thirty thousand community and faith-based organizations, county agencies, doctors, pharmacies, companies, and individuals across the country are now joined together in this partnership to distribute free FamilyWize prescription drug discount cards in their communities, reducing the cost of medicine for people in 96% of counties in the United States. More than 1,000 participating United Ways, America’s Promise Alliance Partners, and individual counties in all 50 states have volunteered to coordinate these distribution efforts.

All of the major pharmacies in my area, including Safeway, WalMart and Costco, participate in the program. On the right hand side of the page there is a pharmacy look-up button. There's also a price look-up button.

As I diaried here, the WA and OR program provides significant savings on my prescriptions. Doxycycline, which I buy monthly used to cost me $51.19 a month - under the Washington Prescription Drug Program (WPDP) I paid $11.15. Lisinopril, which I buy as a 3-month supply, was costing me $40. The WPDP price in $12.65.

FamilyWize doesn't appear to be quite that good. The FamilyWize price for lisinopril was $27.08, compared to my WPDP price of $12.65, or the undiscounted price of $40. I couldn't find my doxycycline dosage listed - and other than the standard 100mg dosage I take, some drug companies actually hold patents on different applications/dosages of this generic drug, and charge astronomical prices - hundreds of dollars for a smaller dose of the same drug I pay $11 for.

Apparently these programs aren't getting the publicity they should. In the poll on the WA/OR program diary, only 3 of 46 respondents from WA/OR had heard of the program, and I expect dKos readers to be better informed than average. A search of the Seattle PI newspaper (now online only) turned up nothing on the WPDP program - and they wonder why newspapers are dieing. This is a program passed by the legislature and initiated and signed by Governor Gregoire that benefits any WA resident. Even my sister-in-law-the-nurse had never heard of it (and is getting a card to save money on my brother-in-law's prescriptions). The PI did have an article on FamilyWize, which is how I found it. In true modern journalism fashion, it appears to be more or less a reprint of a FamilyWize press release.

If you have no insurance, or no drug coverage, or even a high deductible for coverage, check prices at the FamilyWize site (and be careful signing up!) and see if it helps you. If you're in WA or OR, though, go to my previous diary and sign up for the state-sponsored programs.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (11+ / 0-)

    Modern revolutions have succeeded because of solidarity, not force.

    by badger on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 09:42:42 AM PST

  •  Rec'd & tipped to get the conversation going (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I haven't heard of this program either -- although I live in Oregon -- but I'd like to learn more about it. And promote if it's a good thing, or warn people if it's not.

  •  While I have good insurance, I have also checked (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    badger, viral, llywrch

    in my state (Texas) when my daughter in law was uninsured.   There are MANY ways to get some type of discount, though here they're not as good as what you're quoting in your state.

    I get my daily newspaper, and pay in 6 month intervals.  With it comes an item called a "Press Pass".  This little item is good for a small discount at the drug store.  

    In fact, if you ask the person who takes in your prescription at the pharmacy counter, they can tell you where to get decent discount cards.  

    No one should have to pay "full price" for a drug they need.  NO ONE.  

    If you want to know the real answer: Just ask a Mom.

    by tacklelady on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 11:11:44 AM PST

    •  It's probably true that (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      viral, llywrch

      there are a lot of programs, but as someone who hasn't had to worry about drug prices - or even buy many prescription drugs - until recently, it's surprising.

      For example, it seems like almost no one in WA and OR knows about the state programs, and they don't seem to have gotten much publicity - I would have expected newspaper articles, mention in legislator newsletters (tyhey passed it), posters at my clinic (I read a bunch of those in the exam room every visit) or something.

      Modern revolutions have succeeded because of solidarity, not force.

      by badger on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 11:27:07 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Perhaps it's because of a lack (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        of an advertising budget.  Or maybe too many peop;le using it would run it out of funds too quickly.  

        Not good excuses, but you can spread it word of mouth.  

        If you want to know the real answer: Just ask a Mom.

        by tacklelady on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 11:43:42 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  There are a lot of similar programs (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    badger, BusyinCA, viral, llywrch

    I have several discount cards and buy most of my meds at WalMart. Unfortunately, they don't really save me very much on the generics that I buy there.

    I get the more expensive meds that are still under patent from Canada for a fraction of what I would pay here even with insurance.

    One example, is Diovan by Novartis. There is a generic form (Valsartan) that's available in Canada, but it's not available in the US. So I'll be switching from Diovan to the generic Valsartan which costs a fraction of what Diovan sells for around here.

    The same is true of the newer insulins like Humalog and Lantus. You can order them from a Canadian pharmacy and save tons of money. The only problem is they have to clear customs and since they need to be kept cool I need to get a supply during the winter months so that they don't overheat in shipment.

    The only trouble with retirement is...I never get a day off!

    by Mr Robert on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 12:21:47 PM PST

    •  How does one go about getting (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mr Robert

      prescriptions from Canada. What are the drawbacks?

      •  The only thing I've been concerned about (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        is that the US Border authorities might seize the medication in which case I would never receive it and I'd lose whatever I paid for it.

        At this point, that hasn't happened I plan on ordering from Canada for selected prescriptions where I can save a lot of money. I think the risks are minimal based on what I've read and my own personal experience.

        The only trouble with retirement is...I never get a day off!

        by Mr Robert on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 07:18:19 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  There's one problem with buying from Canada (0+ / 0-)

      That is if the Feds catch you, they will go after the physician who prescribed your medication. Or so I was told by a nurse practitioner whom I was getting medication from a year ago.

      I don't know if this is actually the case, or she was simply being paranoid. But I thought I'd throw it out as one more risk people run to afford their medications so they can survive.

      FWIW, I haven't needed any of these programs since my medications are covered by my wife's employer -- she works for one of the medical insurance companies. (No, I'm not saying which one because I don't want to be forced to defend it. I will simply note that I've read a number of complaints about it here.) They used to offer a very comprehensive coverage plan to their employees, but over  the last few years what they cover has been severely cut back.

  •  Shop wisely. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    viral, badger

    I haven't had time to compare with the WA site but so far I've found 4 of the drugs are cheaper than the lowest price I could find directly on drug store websites and 2 that are actually higher.  The familywize outfit lists Atenolol at $8.36 when it is on everybody's $4 program including the Rite Aide store listed on the site so if I used the card for it would I get overcharged or would Rite Aide charge me the $4 generic price???   Also Prilosec was listed at $35 when you can buy the OTC for $23.  So maybe good for some things and not for others.  More will be reviled.  

    Sorry this hasn't gotten more interest as it could save as much or more money as the "eat cheaply" diaries that usually don't have a lot of new ideas that po' folk haven't already learned.  Food is costly but it's not nearly as over priced as drugs.  Anyone with a brain can see that could save a much higher amount percentage-wise by cutting the cost of medication.  

    Maybe you can re-post during the week and give it a go then.  

    A bad idea isn't responsible for those who believe it. ---Stephen Cannell

    by YellerDog on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 06:01:25 PM PST

  •  Update (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    viral, llywrch, badger

    Compared to the WA program.  Only one was more expensive and that by less than $2.00.  

    Really being informed on this is very hard but also really really important.  Here are some things I've discovered about generic drugs.  As you know, not all generic drugs are the same.  This can happen in several ways.  

    Even generics come in brands in that they are produced by different companies and they don't all cost the same.  The insurance companies know this of course and from time to time the brand of drug they use to fill the prescription will be different based on the cheapest cost available to them.  You will know this when the pill looks different.  Is a different color or shape or has a different code on it.  Usually it doesn't matter.

    (One rip-off of part D is that you can't price shop.  The drug store agrees to accept the price your insurance carrier will pay and then you have to pay that.  But the carrier can and does price shop the market.)

    They don't all have the same base.  I take one medication that I can only tolerate one brand because each of the different manufactures use a different resin base in it's product.  The one I tolerate is the one that was the original brand name and even though it is marketed as a generic, and is cheaper than it once was, it's still more expensive than the others.  I've also had problems with the insurance company which wants to fill the script with the cheaper stuff and have to get the doctor to write the script "fill as written" and even then they tried to over-ride him but finally relented.  

    There are more than one version of the generic.  This happens when the original version becomes generic and is replaced with a newer ER (or something) that is supposed to be new and improved.  Some are and some aren't.  Nexium is no better than Prilosec which is what they came out with when Prilosec became an OTC drug.
    In time the "new and improved" version will also go generic but sells for a higher price than the first version to come out of patent.   To get the deep discounted version you may have to ask your doctor if the older one will work for you.    

    Which finally brings me to the point.  You have to know about the different versions in order to ask and you don't have a handy computer program with you when you are sitting in the docs office.  Last week mine prescribed a very expensive "generic" when there is an older one available.  He may not even realize what he did.  So I paid 10x what I need to and now I have to get him to change it which I'm almost positive will not be a problem. This one really hurt.  I should have come home and gone online before I took it to the drug store.    

    A bad idea isn't responsible for those who believe it. ---Stephen Cannell

    by YellerDog on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 06:41:48 PM PST

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