How to get a prescription drug discount card

If there were a way to save hundreds of dollars annually on the prescription medications you take every day, of course you'd want to take advantage of it.

Prescriptions for common afflictions like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and glaucoma can run $231.57 a month, for example. A drug discount card can help trim that expense by $43.29 a month, or $519.48 a year. (See chart.)

Drug discount cards can help users realize significant savings off the retail price of prescription drugs. Organizations that sponsor the cards negotiate with pharmacies and pharmaceutical manufacturers to pass these savings on to consumers. In some cases, the cards are offered directly by pharmacies or the manufacturers themselves. Still others are offered by companies called pharmacy benefit managers, such as AdvancePCS, which offers its card for free.

In addition to no enrollment fee, the AdvancePCS RxSavings Plan offers a safety feature that monitors the cardholder's drug usage and automatically alerts the pharmacist if it detects potentially harmful medication interactions. The free card is accepted at more than 51,000 pharmacies nationwide, including most chain pharmacies and many independents, and is available to anyone, regardless of age or income.

If you do not have health insurance or prescription drug coverage, it's to your benefit to know about these cards and to compare the features of each before you sign up. Even if you have limited drug coverage, additional savings are available. Here are some suggestions from AdvancePCS for making the most of a drug discount card:

• Look for cards without an enrollment fee.

• Make sure the card is accepted at the pharmacy you use.

• Check to see if the program covers the drugs you use. Not all drugs are discounted under some plans.

• Be certain you qualify for the card. Some cards carry specific age and income restrictions.

• Have realistic expectations. Discounts may be more or less than the overall savings average, depending on the drug and the pharmacy.

• Make it easy on yourself. The convenience of a Web site you can visit or a toll-free number to call for more information is important.

• Look for additional safety features built into the program. Plans that monitor for potentially harmful drug interactions offer an extra "value-added" bonus.

Since the AdvancePCS RxSavings Plan debuted in September 2001, it has realized nearly $30.5 million in savings each year for its members. Individual savings average about 20 percent on all drugs, including generic and name brands. Some commonly prescribed medications receive additional manufacturer discounts.

To find out more or to obtain your own drug discount card, visit or call 1-800-ADVANCE.

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