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Getting prescription discounts with LARx

September 07, 2009|Francesca Lunzer Kritz

On Aug. 31, the city of Los Angeles introduced a discount card that offers 5% to 42% off on virtually all prescription drugs. Using the card could get you a break on a drug you need.

Called the LARx Prescription Savings Card, the new offer is available to anyone anywhere in the state who downloads a card online at forlarx.com/pdfs/larx_card.pdf, or calls to get one at (877) FOR-LARX. Other card pickup locations include public libraries, recreation centers and senior and community centers. There is no enrollment fee or any other qualifications, and the card is usable immediately for anyone filling or refilling a prescription at participating pharmacies throughout L.A. County.

The company that manages the benefit, Envision Prescription Services, has contracted with more than 1,500 pharmacies (you can find a list at forlarx.com/pharmacy.aspx). All have agreed to accept the prices Envision negotiated with drug companies. Generally, you'll get bigger discounts on generic drugs and smaller ones on brand name drugs.

The savings are worth checking out. The recent price for 30 40-milligram tablets of the cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor at a West Hollywood CVS was $137.99; the LARx price for the same dose and quantity was $114.72. That's still more than $1,000 a year for just one prescription drug, but you'll save more than $250 by using the LARx card. One limitation, however, is that you can't combine the new card with other offers, such as discount coupons.

If you've stopped using a drug because you can't afford it, the savings on the new card may not be enough to meet your needs. If that is the case, start with your doctor. Call -- unless you're scheduled for a visit anyway -- and go through your list of drugs to be sure you need to take each one (but never stop taking a drug without talking about it with the doctor first). Ask whether any of your medications might be available as a generic, and see if you might be able to get free samples, or a physician-only discount. (Some coupons for free or reduced cost prescriptions are given out only in doctors' offices.)

Compile a list of drugs you must take, then check out www.needymeds.org. Created by a nonprofit group in Gloucester, Mass., the website includes information on other discount cards and even free medicines from drug companies, based on income. NeedyMeds doesn't assist people by phone, so if you don't have an Internet connection, consider accessing the site free at the library.

Even people with insurance can have trouble paying their share of drug costs. Recently, insurance firm United Health Group Inc. dropped its co-pay for several drugs including the asthma medicine Advair and antidepressant Cymbalta from $50 to $30 for many people as long as they fill their prescription within 30 days of the prior refill running out.

Find other full-price and co-pay discounts on prescription drugs at www.internetdrugcoupons.com.

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health@latimes.com

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