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Medicare Drug Card Analysis

May/June 2004

An examination of three GMHC clients, whose regimens typify the needs of people with HIV, shows that the discount card program is not comprehensive, lacks choice, and offers uneven savings.


Barry takes 4 prescription medications for HIV and pain management. Of the drugs covered by the lowest-price discount plan offered by Medicare, the following price comparisons were found:
Drug NameMedicareDrugstore.comCanadadrugs.com
Celebrex$151.56$76.99$88.72
Levaquin266.2897.93149.56
Viracept603.08635.97565.97
Zerit329.75316.24259.08
Total Monthly Cost for Barry$1,350.67$1,127.13$1,063.33
Barry's best bargainMost ExpensiveLess
Expensive
Least
Expensive
Total number of Medicare plans that cover all of Barry's drugs: 4
Patricia takes 6 prescription medications each day. Of the drugs covered by the lowest-price discount plan offered by Medicare, the following price comparisons were found:
Drug NameMedicareDrugstore.comCanadadrugs.com
Epivir$264.45$269.99$244.90
Hydro-chlorothiazide3.898.992.02
Retrovir308.16326.21330.61
Total Monthly Cost for Pat$576.50$605.19$577.53
Patricia's best bargain Least ExpensiveMost
Expensive
Less
Expensive

Patricia can purchase more of her drugs at one time through non-Medicare outlets.

Total number of Medicare plans that cover all of Patricia's drugs: 0
Number of Medicare plans that cover some of Patricia's drugs: 5

Jim has been on Medicare for 9 years and takes 12 prescription medications daily for HIV, high cholesterol, sleeplessness, and pain. Of the drugs covered by the lowest-price discount plan offered by Medicare, the following price comparisons were found:
Drug NameMedicareDrugstore.comCanadadrugs.com
Elavil$15.38$10.99$2.86
Famotidine25.3019.9986.12
Lipitor67.3362.9946.48
Naproxen13.0017.9912.82
Reyataz756.94775.51665.99
Total Monthly Cost for Jim$877.95$887.47$814.27
Jim's best bargainLess ExpensiveMost
Expensive
Least
Expensive

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Total number of Medicare plans that cover all of Jim's drugs: 0
Number of Medicare plans that cover some of Jim's drugs: 2

Analyses were conducted using prices listed on CMS's website www.medicare.gov, Drugstore.com's website, www.drugstore.com, and Canadiandrugs.com's website, www.canadiandrugs.com, on Thursday, May 20, 2004. Only drugs that were available from all three sources were compared. All prices in U.S. dollars.


Medicare-Approved Discount Cards Will Benefit Some
Summary from AIDS Treatment News

Patients who are on Medicare and have income under 135% of Federal poverty level and are not on Medicaid probably should obtain one of the new Medicare discount cards that became available on June 1, 2004, because all these cards include $600 annual credit for prescription drug purchases for persons within that income limit. Unfortunately, this program is complex, no one yet knows how it will work in practice, and after choosing a card one is locked in until November 15. The most difficult part of the choice of which card to get may involve how it interacts with other programs, including ADAP, and pharmaceutical company patient assistance programs.

For the complete report, visit: www.aidsnews.org.



  
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This article was provided by Gay Men's Health Crisis. It is a part of the publication GMHC Treatment Issues. Visit GMHC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
 
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