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Pfizer to Offer Discount Card for Medicare Patients

January 16, 2002|From Reuters

Pfizer Inc. on Tuesday unveiled a card that allows low-income and disabled Medicare patients to pay $15 for each prescription filled with its medicines, reflecting far greater discounts than cards from rival drug makers.

Starting March 1, low-income seniors can save about $50 a prescription, based on the $65 average cost for a 30-day supply of most Pfizer medicines, said Peter Brandt, senior vice president of the drug maker.

The "share card" will cover all but one of the medicines made by New York-based Pfizer, including blockbusters such as impotence treatment Viagra, cholesterol fighter Lipitor and antidepressant Zoloft. Arthritis treatment Celebrex will be excluded, as it is co-marketed with Pharmacia Corp.

Some 7 million of the 40 million Medicare patients will be eligible for Pfizer's card, the company said. Medicare, a federal insurance program that covers elderly and disabled Americans, does not reimburse patients for drugs unless they are received in hospitals.

Although Pfizer's card offers larger potential discounts than its rivals, GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis officials said they offer other "patient assistance" programs that provide free drugs to lower-income patients of all ages who have no insurance coverage.

Larry Sasich, of consumer watchdog group Public Citizen, said he was afraid the various discount cards would take the pressure off Congress to authorize prescription drug coverage for Medicare patients.

Brandt said Pfizer is offering its fixed-rate card in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, which diverted Congress from earlier plans to add a prescription drug benefit for Medicare patients.

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