Washington starts drug 'price club'

November 1, 2000

Pharmaceutical Representative

Washington Gov. Gary Locke unveiled a plan to help senior citizens purchase prescription drugs at lower costs.

Locke announced that the program, called AWARDS, is intended to offer lower prescription drug costs for Washington residents aged 55 and older, but it may be expanded by the legislature to include more Washington residents.

"Drug prices are going through the roof, and older Washington residents are suffering the most," Locke said. "My new program will let seniors, many of whom are on fixed incomes, buy prescription drugs at a lower cost."

Locke said the plan will allow Washington residents aged 55 and older to pay $15 per individual and $25 per family each year to join a "prescription drug buyer's club." Their purchases, at participating pharmacies, will be merged with the buying power of the state Uniform Medical Plan to buy drugs at substantially lower costs. Locke said AWARDS members can expect to pay from 12% to 30% less than retail prices for prescription drugs. If members order from a mail service, they can expect discounts from 20% to 49%. Discounts will vary, depending on an individual's drug profile and current use of generic drugs.

According to Locke, the state government will combine its purchasing power across agencies and join forces with a pharmacy benefit manager to get additional savings on the $376 million state government spends now on prescription drugs.

"If ever there was a compelling need to help our citizens, it is now," Locke said. "Tens of thousands of older Washington citizens need one or more prescription drugs to stay healthy, and sometimes to stay alive. Yet the cost of these drugs is skyrocketing, and fewer seniors can afford them. We need to help our older citizens now."

A spokesperson for the Washington-based Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America described the proposal as a "concept paper" with a "lot of details that still needed to be filled in," and said they would not comment on it until they saw legislative and regulatory details. PR

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